“Confusion and loneliness became frequent demons, and I was troubled by the question of whether or not there was a place for me in the world,” Chatham wrote in One Hundred Paintings. “I had no notion of earning money by being a painter, or of being anything other than a person compelled to fish all the time.”
Chatham was a humble raconteur, a realist who delighted as much in nature’s immense beauty as he did in being irreverent. In the forward to One Hundred Paintings, Harrison wrote, “Along with others, I have spent a great deal of time worrying about Chatham. For a long time I thought he had too much humility to survive, and in some respects he nearly didn’t.”
Chatham, who some believe lived in the shadow of his peers, leaves a legacy not soon forgotten. “How many times have I heard the phrase, as one speeds over the blacktop, “It looks like a Chatham,’” as the sun rakes the valley cottonwoods, or a moon rises over a stand of fir, backed by an impressive range,” Collector says.
“Russ had an extraordinarily diverse and creative personality, a world view of remarkable freshness and originality,” McGuane says. “It would take a kind of cultural archaeology to find all the things he’d done, all the places he’d been. It was a very big life.”