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Mumbai’s JJ School of Art to restore 100 iconic books from its library

The project, to restore 100 printed works form JJ School of Art library, is expected to start in January. Funding of Rs 10 lakh for the same has been obtained from the state government and restoration will be carried out by the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property (NRLC), Lucknow.

mumbai Updated: Dec 03, 2018 15:53 IST
Ankita Bhatkhande
Ankita Bhatkhande
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
JJ School of Art,Conservation project at JJ School,restoration project at JJ School
Most notable among the project to restore 100 printed works in the library of Mumbai’s JJ School of Art is the work of John Griffiths, who in 1872 replicated and archived the frescoes found in the Ajanta caves into his book on the subject. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

When the JJ School of Art began in 1857, it had no library of its own. More than 150 years onward, the institute is in the process of restoring 100 of its most iconic printed works — ranging from Company-era books to detailed documentation of paintings of Bombay’s best-known modern artists.

Most notable among the project’s list of authors is the orientalist John Griffiths, who in 1872 replicated and archived the frescoes found in the Ajanta caves (most of which do not survive in the caves today) into his book ‘The Paintings in the Buddhist Cave Temples of Ajanta, Khandesh, India’. Griffiths, whose death centenary fell on Saturday, was a professor and then a principal of JJ School of Art.

The restoration project, expected to start in January, has obtained a funding of Rs 10 lakh from the state government and will be carried out by the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property (NRLC), Lucknow.

“Artists from across the globe who came here to teach realised the need to have reference material for art education, and over time procured some classics from various parts of the country,” said Vishwanath Sable, dean, Sir JJ School of Art. “In its formative years, the school had several chromolithographs from London to provide some reference.”

Other works that are on the restoration anvil include books by some leading Victorian-era artists such as William Hogarth, Samuel Prout and Edwin Landseer, as well as those on paintings by VS Gaitonde, KK Hebbar and SH Raza — all of whom graduated from this very school.

BV Kharbade, director general, NRLC, said the major challenge was to remove the acidity that has saturated the pages of the books. “We are hoping to complete the project in a year’s time,” he said.

The restored tomes will be stored in a new library being set up by the school on its ground floor. While there is no clarity on when its library was formally established, the first record of a book issue goes back to 1959. “There are 92 entries before that but since there was no formal structure, the details of these books are absent,” said Ravindra Zankar, librarian. “In its current state, the library is home to 8,677 books, almost all of which are on art. Any researcher working on art history in the country comes here first.”

Anand Akolkar, a paper-conservation expert, believes the physical book is far more reliable than its digital counterpart. “Restoration helps us treasure history and memories associated with a book’s physicality,” he said.

The art school has so far restored more than 800 paintings and 32 sculptures which will be housed in the famous Kipling Bungalow (named after John Lockwood Kipling, author Rudyard Kipling’s father and the school’s former principal).

Sable said every painting that is restored in the project would be accompanied by descriptions about time period, medium used and historical context for the benefit of students.

First Published: Dec 03, 2018 15:10 IST