Russell Chatham Biography

Russell Chatham




Printmaker, painter, and writer Russell Chatham was born in San Francisco on October 27, 1939. He lived in the city until 1949 when his family moved north to San Anselmo in Marin County. After graduation from high school, he spent the better part of two decades moving throughout the county earning his living as a sign painter and cabinetmaker/carpenter. Among the towns where he lived were Marshall, San Rafael, San Anselmo, Black Point, Bolinas, and Nicasio, places that soon inspired Chatham to take up painting. The grandson of noted landscape painter and muralist Gottardo Piazzoni, it appears that artistic ability was in his blood, as he never took formal art studies.

At age nineteen Chatham met printmaker Doris Clark Meyer who was teaching lithography and collagraph printmaking at the College of Marin, and they married. Meyer helped Chatham secure a teaching position and both artists continued to work in Marin until their divorce in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s Chatham visited a friend in Livingston, Montana and soon settled there, opening a studio and gallery. Longtime residents recalled newcomer Russell bartering his paintings for essential services, but it wasn't long before he established himself as a leading contemporary painter of the Montana landscape. He quickly found success, garnering high-paying clientele from the Hollywood elite, with buyers such as Jessica Lange, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, and Tom Brokaw. However, as his success rose, he realized wanted to keep his work available to a wider audience and he took up lithography, becoming a master printmaker.

In addition to his work as a painter, Chatham also worked as a columnist for sportsman's magazines with a focus on fishing, and also published a series of short stories titled "Dark Waters," in which he details the exploits of his hunting friends, like the author Jim Harrison. 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 returned to Northern California, settling in in Marshall. He continued to work as an artist and writer until 2018 when illness ended his career. He died on November 10, 2019.