Lt. Kripal Singh Shekhawat

Pottery has been the inspiration for more than one story of craft revival. What is now known widely as the Jaipur Blue Pottery had its first revival in the mid-19th century with the advent of the Jaipur School of Art in 1866 under the patronage of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh. The inspiration was the old blue-and-white quartz fritted tilework on Amber Fort, similar to that of Multan, Golconda, Rampur and Delhi. With an emphasis on preserving a Rajasthani design aesthetic, most of the forms were of an Indian type, like the surahi, lota and gulab pash, but with illustrative details based on miniature painting artistic devices. As the secrets of the technology lapsed with each generation and the School of Art in Kishanpol Bazaar was closed down, the craft deteriorated in quality.

It was again the intervention of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, who along with Maharani Gayatri Devi gave the much-needed patronage in post-independence India to the ailing School of Art, which inspired the young Kripal Singh Shekhawat, recently graduated from shantiniketan as a painter in the modernist miniature and fresco style, to set his hand to the revival of this distinctive style of pottery. (15) This infused the Jaipur style with new elements from Bengal. Besides being the ceramics and painting instructor from 1963 at the Sawai Ram Singh Shilp Kala Kendra financed by the All India Handicrafts Board, Kripal Singh also had a workshop for both painting and pottery at his home where he trained young School of Art graduates, kashigars (tile workers) and kumbhars in the basics of production.

Kripal Singh, born in Mau in 1922, is also known for his contribution as a painting student of Nandalal Bose at shantiniketan. Following this, Kripal Singh did a two-year diploma in Oriental Arts from the Tokyo University, Japan. He combined the Rajasthani miniature painting idiom with the Ajanta delicacy of line in nature and, besides reviving and training many younger pottery students and painters, began a new modernisation of the techniques and glaze palette in an individual stylistic development. For this he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1974 and Shilp Guru in 2002. He was also chairman of the Rajasthan Lalit Kala Akademy between 1997 and 1999, while he continued with his painting and pottery till his death in 2008. His pathbreaking revival inspired others like entrepreneur Leela Bordia, under whose artistic direction in collaboration with craftsman Giriraj Singh there was a flowering and expansion of the traditional line of products to encompass new markets through her ceramics initiative Neerja International that revitalised this craft.