Doris Meyer Chatham Biography

Doris Meyer Chatham

American

1923-2015

Biography

Abstract expressionist printmaker and painter Doris Meyer Chatham was born Doris Hoag Clark in Toronto, Canada on January 10, 1923. Her family moved to Texas where Doris attended and graduated with her BA in Fine Arts from the Rice Institute (now Rice University). Though her focus was originally painting, an unusual path would lead her to printmaking in the coming years.

Doris' life was one of constant change, which was often reflected in her work. Her interests in art, politics, and adventure intersected when she met and married German-born Professor Heinrich Meyer, on February
19,1945, at the age of 22. Heinrich Meyer was a linguist and Goethe scholar who taught at Rice, and wrote political works under the pseudonyms H.K. Houston Meyer, Robert O. Barlow, and Hugo Cartesius. Just prior to their marriage, Heinrich was prosecuted for having written a letter in 1938 requesting an audience with Hitler, with the hopes of explaining how his Nazi policies were affecting American feelings toward the people of Germany. Meyer’s assets were impounded and he was convicted and spent three months in an American detainee camp in Texas before his conviction was overturned. Following their marriage in 1945, the Meyers moved to Emmaus, near Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania to help open a cooperative farming community with writer and sustainable farming advocate Jerome Irving Rodale. Doris Meyer helped edit Rodale’s Organic Farming and Gardening and Prevention magazines and helped plant Rodale’s organic garden, one of the first in the United States. 

In the meantime, Doris continued to work as an artist, and it was around the late 1940s or early 1950s that she discovered printmaking. Her style was distinctly Abstract at this time and she worked in lithography, two facts that went against the grain during such a male-dominated time in 20th century Modernism. As well, her color compositions were vibrant, strong, and complex early in her career, exemplifying her dedication to the difficult technique. After Doris and Heinrich were divorced in early 1955, she toured the US on her own, finally settling in the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle she studied printmaking with Glenn Alps at the University of Washington, focusing on lithography and collagraphy. After graduation she landed a job teaching art at Everett Junior College in Washington, and in the late 1950s she travelled to France to study printmaking with S.W. Hayter who had returned to Paris and re-opened Atelier 17 in 1950. She continued to correspond with Hayter throughout the fifties and sixties.

Doris moved to Marin County, California and began teaching printmaking at the College of Marin where she met and later married the painter Russell Chatham. She experimented with viscosity printing, developed at Atelier 17, and studied with Kaiko Moti. Most of her prints were done as experiments and were not printed in large editions.

Doris Meyer Chatham returned to the Pacific Northwest, moving to the Portland, Oregon area. She died in Portland, Oregon on June 8, 2015.