It’s official. The famous J.K. Ralston paintings about the life of Chief Washakie are finally home for good. The Fremont County Pioneer Association has been raising funds for the last two years to purchase the paintings for the Pioneer Museum.
Thursday night at the museum, the Association presented a check to the Sandy Del Monte from the Alice Del Monte Trust in a ceremony to officially keep the paintings in Lander permanently.
The paintings, created by noted Montana artist J. K. Ralston, hung in the Noble Hotel in Lander for decades and chronicled the life of Shoshone Chief Washakie. Ralston went on to become one of the premier western painters.
After the hotel closed the paintings went into storage until they were displayed first in Cheyenne in 2014, then at the Lander museum in 2015. Realizing their historic importance, and the distinct possibility they would be sold to someone outside of Wyoming, the Fremont County Pioneer Association set out to raise the money to keep them in Lander.
Many groups and individuals contributed to the cause, including the Wyoming Arts Council Cultural Trust Fund, The Wyoming Historic Preservation Fund, The Lightner Foundation, The Granger Foundation, The Wyoming Episcopal Trust Fund and many others. Dozens of private citizens donated, many anonymously.
“Our goal is to preserve our history for the future,” said Pioneer Association President Bill Elder. “These paintings tell the story of Chief Washakie, but also the history of this entire area - there are so many layers of meaning in this collection. It is an honor to help preserve them.”