Like all old institutions, the National College of Arts, has a historical tradition. Much of its present tone was set long ago when it was known as the Mayo School of Arts. Gazetteers written about the city of Lahore in 1915 describe the work being done at the school as one of the cultural highlights of the urban center.
The Mayo School of Industrial Art was set up to commemorate Lord Mayo, the British Viceroy to India, assassinated in 1872. A teacher of painting and sculpture Lockwood Kipling, working then in Bombay in a Parsi School, was appointed its first Principal parallel to his charge of the Curator of the Lahore Museum.