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Montana Landscape through the Seasons
Russell Chatham

On Exhibit
November 23 - December 29, 2012

Opening Reception
Downtown Kalispell Art Walk
Friday, December 7, 2012
5:00 - 9:00 PM
Admission: Free/Open to the Public





About the Exhibit
Russell Chatham was born in San Francisco on October 27, 1939.  A painter, lithographer, and writer of the American West, Chatham, was raised in Carmel Valley, California. It was there he developed a love for the landscape.  He lived there until moving to Livingston, Montana in 1972.  As a painter and author, Chatham is entirely self-taught.  He began exhibiting formally in 1958, and since then has had more than four hundred one man shows.

Chatham's paintings focus on the landscape and include Missouri River headwater scenes and Yellowstone National Park.  He is fascinated by changing seasons and changing light and the silent, spiritual aspects of landscape. Of his work, he says: “Some people have described it as impressionism, but it isn’t.  Not everything is life can or should be explained. Creating art is an attempt to search for something beyond ourselves".
The “Missouri Headwaters” series are large original lithographs that depict the changes in the land and the atmosphere through the different months of the year. From the austere winter bleakness through the lush bountiful greens of June.  Chatham says, “I prefer that painting be poetic rather than narrative.”

Tonalism is a distinctive style that relies on soft-edged broadly painted tonalities. American Tonalist painters tend to use a neutral palette of predominantly cool colors and prefer scenes of dawn or dusk, rising mist and moonlight where the atmosphere is suggestive of poetic or meditative states. 

The technique of glazing, the layering of thin layers of pigment suspended in oil or varnish, is an important part in achieving Tonalist effects.  Light penetrates the thin washes of color to reveal an undercoat that is reflected back to the surface. The smoky quality or, sfumato, is considered part of the Tonalist tradition that can be traced back to the Venetian Renaissance. 

In a finely composed Tonalist painting all parts contribute to the whole.  Natural forms are dramatized, their edges blurred, patterns and decorative elements are emphasized. Because Tonalist landscapes tend to be generalized places, they often lack local subject matter, allowing for a greater use of the viewer’s imagination. 

Tonalism, as a movement, lasted well into the 1920s. Today, contemporary artists such as Wolf Kahn, Russell Chatham and April Gornic look to the heritage of American Tonalism for inspiration in their work.

excerpted from David Adams Cleveland’s exhibition catalogue,  Intimate Landscapes, Charles Warren Eaton and the Tonalist Movement in American Art 1880 –1920, De Menil Gallery at Groton School, 9/26 to 12/14, 2004.

Lithography begins with a photograph of an original painting. The photograph is separated into four basic color elements – yellow, red, blue and black. A negative is made for each color. In a print shop the four color negatives are used to produce four printing plates. The plates are mounted on a press and all four colors are printed simultaneously. Many prints can be commercially produced with this method.

By contrast, each plate used in the printing of an original lithograph has been hand drawn by the artist. As many as fifty different color inks may be used in one work, each one requiring a separate plate. Every one of the inks is specially mixed by the artist. A lithograph with forty one colors and forty one plates could require one hundred and eighty hours of the artist’s time.

Chatham used aluminum plates that mount directly on a high speed press. Approximately thirty three to forty plates were used to create each print.  He drew the image on each plate with a greasy crayon. Next an acid solution is applied to bind the drawing to the plate and to make the bare areas more receptive to water.  Then the plate is sponged with water and the ink is applied with a roller. The ink only adheres to the drawing and is repelled by the clean wet area. The paper is pressed against the plate in the press. The process is repeated with each color plate until the print is complete.


Sponsored in part by

The Towne Printer



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