Russell Chatham was born in 1939 in San Francisco, California. In 1950 his family moved north out of the city to the then small, rural town of San Anselmo in Marin County. Throughout his young life, Chatham’s summers were spent at the family’s Carmel Valley ranch on the southern slopes of Mt. Toro in Monterey County. It was here that he learned to paint, hunt and fish. As an artist, and later author, Chatham is self taught.
The main source of Chatham’s artistic inspiration is the work of his maternal grandfather Gottardo Pizzaoni (1872 - 1945). Although legendary among artists and collectors of the time, Piazzoni’s work has never been widely recognized in the United States. Piazzoni died when Chatham was five years old, but even so, all the children in the family were encouraged to paint from the time they were old enough to know better than to eat the colours. This encouragement was never calculated to result in the making of professional artists; it was simply understood that painting was a good thing to do.
In 1970, Chatham moved from California to Livingston, Montana. In the decade which followed, slowly but cumulatively, people began to notice Chatham’s work. His yearly exhibitions in Livingston have become major social events, drawing patrons from all over the country. Quietly and eagerly, his entire output, without exception, has been purchased by collectors whose tastes have been informed as much by personal delight as by a sense of good business.
Presently, buyers must often wait several years to get a painting and at prices suggesting the financial soundness of the work.
There is no stereotype of Chatham owners. They run the entire gamut from out of work carpenters to members of the nation’s first families. Some notable people who own paintings: Tom McGuane, William Hjortsberg, Tim Cahill, Jimmy Buffett, Harry Dean Stanton, Jeff Bridges, Randy Quaid, Ali MacGraw, Margot Kidder and Jack Nicholson.