|National College of Arts|
Opposite (south) of Kim's Gun and framed by the foliage of enormous trees is one of the most important institutions that the Punjab has to offer—the National College of Arts or NCA, rated by some as the finest art institution in Pakistan.
The art school was named Mayo School of Industrial Art, since the cost of its construction was met by subscriptions to the Mayo Memorial in memory of Viceroy Lord Mayo (1869-72), who was stabbed to death by a prisoner in the Andaman Islands.
The school was established as part of the policy of the Government to promote education in arts and crafts in the subcontinent, the first art schools having been established in the presidency capitals of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. Lockwood Kipling, father of the famous author Rudyard, had taught architectural sculpture at Bombay School of Art for ten years before arriving as principal of the Lahore School in April 1875. Kipling, considered the father of Indian arts and crafts, was followed by Bhai Ram Singh, another eminent personality.
The flooding of the Punjab market with British manufactures from Manchester drove the local industry out of business by the turn of the century. Popular taste was weaned from its cultural roots, which resulted directly in the decline of art and craft. Nearly 40,000 cotton workers and 900 weavers in Lahore were rendered jobless. Cotton printing being done in the city and once prized in such far-off places as Switzerland and Holland, was badly hit by the shoddy machine-made variants that came in from Manchester. Cottage industry in woolen and silk doth was virtually wiped out. The Mayo School became a haven for representative professionals from all the industries thus affected. European designs in building and furniture and the rise of the furniture firms brought bad times for the Punjabi carpenter reputed one of the cleverest in the world. The vogue received by photography and printing produced a great demand for lithographers and the school set up a process department for the production of line, half tone and color blocks for illustrating purposes.
courses followed the general art curriculum of European art schools
with the inclusion of examples of oriental architecture, and
'principles of the Indian design'. Within a decade the school earned
a well-deserved reputation for the promotion and training of local
craft persons. In the Gazetteer of 1884 Kipling noted, "The Mayo
School has had a decided influence on the carpentry as well as on
other branches of manufacture, such as cotton prints, metal work
etc. This is partly due to objects actually made in the school, to
designs and suggestions given to bazaar craftsmen, and to its
connection with exhibitions held in Paris, Melbourne, Lahore and
Calcutta, for which it has acted as an agent. Its aim is to recur as
much as possible to the best types of indigenous design, and to make
more widely known the actual state and capabilities of the arts of
By 1911, nearly a lakh of rupees worth of machinery and tools were being operated in the school for such diverse crafts as jewellery, cotton-printing, book-binding, cabinet making, light-metal work, carpentry and blacksmithy. By 1915, the work done at the school was recognized all over India and also in England. The principal works executed by its craftsmen were thus located: Wood-carving, plaster-work and interior in Barnes Court, Simla; Government House, Lahore; Circuit House, designs for amphitheatre at the Delhi Durbar; execution of decorative work including carpets and shamianas of gold thread and repusse metal work and designs for the Law and Oriental Colleges, Lahore; design and decorative work in plaster for the new Railway Theatre, Lahore; a carved console table for Government House, Lahore; Punjab carving for the Billiard Room of Bagshot Park, England for the Duke of Connaught; an eight canon stall for the Lefroy Memorial in Lahore Cantonment’s Church.
If you wish to experience a magical world, you will need to enter
the lofty aiwan-like Mughal portal of the college. Worth the
experience are the administration block, Zahoorul Akhlaq Gallery,
(named after one of the most brilliant sons of the college), the
printmaking studio, workshops and the architectural block. Some of
the early works of architect Nayyar Ali Dada, another famous alumnus
of the college, are also located in the campus and are worth