Russell Chatham Biography

Russell Chatham




Russell Chatham was born in San Francisco on October 27, 1939. He lived in the city until 1949 when his family moved to San Anselmo, California in Marin County, where he spent the next twelve years. For the following eleven years, he worked and lived in Marshall, San Rafael, San Anselmo, Black Point, Bolinas, and Nicasio, earning his living as a sign painter and cabinetmaker/carpenter. He met printmaker Doris Clark Meyer who was teaching lithography and collagraph printmaking at the College of Marin in Marin County, California and they soon married. In the spring of 1972 they moved to Livingston, Montana. As a painter and author, Chatham is self-taught. He is the grandson of the great landscape painter Gottardo Piazzoni. In the early 1980s Chatham began making color lithographs, which he printed himself in his studio. Russell and Doris were divorced and she moved to the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to lithography, Chatham also produces original oil paintings, which are in great demand, but according to his dealers, he prefers printing lithographs as the more challenging art form. (Longtime Livingston residents can recall a time when early in his career Chatham traded his canvases for essential services in a barter arrangement.)

Chatham’s lithographs may have 30 or 40 different layers of color, all of which have to be hand drawn on the matrices, to achieve the final effect. To see some of the early proofs of one of his prints is to see a study in vivid and unusual colors from which it is almost impossible to conceive of the final subtle shadings and quiet colors.

In addition to his work as a painter, Chatham has also published a series of short stories "Dark Waters" in which he details the exploits of his hunting friends, like the author Jim Harrison. The stories are Rabelaisian, vulgar, and exquisitely written (one suspects with a little help from his literary friends). William Hjortsberg disputed this during a presentation in Livingston on 9/12/2008. "He is quite a good writer in his own right," Hjortsberg said. They center on hunting, fly fishing, food, wine and life changes. One story centers around preparing roast duck on an annual outing devoted solely to excess.

In 2011, Chatham moved from Livingston, Montana back to Northern California. He has a studio, where he continues to work in Marshall, California.