Ralph Chubb, Water Cherubs
RALPH CHUBB, WATER CHERUBS
The Museum Meermanno owns not only printed works by private press printers but also their complete archives. This includes, for example, the archive of the British poet, printer and artist Ralph Chubb (1892-1960). The ‘Ralph Chubb Memorial Collection’ held in the Meermanno is unique. It comprises all the work Chubb made between 1924 and 1960, complete with deluxe hand-coloured copies, posthumous works, proofs, manuscripts, photographs, drawings, paintings, correspondence (nearly 900 letters) and wood blocks. In total the collection comprises 2,235 items, including, according to the museum’s inventory, ‘one cuddly toy’.
Chubb was an eccentric fellow. In 1970 Anthony Reid wrote his biography, and we cannot summarize Chubb’s tragic life any better than Reid does: ‘The achievement of Ralph Nicholas Chubb, English artist and eccentric, can be briefly stated. He painted pictures, which did not sell. Shocked people even destroyed some. He wrote books, which firms refused to print. Copies, produced by clandestine means, were denounced and even ritually burnt. But the artist, convinced he was a genius sent by God, determined that nothing should thwart him. His message, proclaiming a strange religion and even stranger sexual activities, must be delivered to the world.’
His persistent individualism places him convincingly in an English tradition which goes back to William Blake, even in his manner of production.
Chubb communicated his message in lithographic books which he wrote, illustrated and printed himself. In them, in keeping with Chubb’s sexual proclivities, we see a lot of naked boys. Thirty copies of his illustrated Water Cherubs (1936) were printed on three different kinds of paper. There was no book he had worked on harder than this one, wrote Reid. The annotation reads ‘Illustrations are of nude boys. Text is outspoken.’