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J.K. Ralston’s Noble Hotel Chief Washakie Paintings on exhibit at Pioneer Museum; Been out of view for 50 years

An Open house to celebrate exhibit is November 7 Twenty-three epic paintings about the life of Chief Washakie by famed western artist J.K. Ralston are now on display at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum in Lander. The paintings formerly hung in the Noble Hotel, but haven’t been seen in Lander since the hotel closed nearly fifty years ago. The paintings and extensive history about Washakie and the Shoshone people will be on display in the main gallery of the museum for the coming year. There is also a display about the Noble Hotel featuring original furniture and a video on Washakie. ​Visitors admire the paintings on exhibit at the Pioneer Museum. (h/t Fremont County Pioneer Museum) The paintings were commissioned by Harold Del Monte, owner of the Noble Hotel in 1945. Del Monte, an avid historian, wanted guests to experience western history while they stayed at his hotel. He amassed a large collection of Indian artifacts, had western style furniture made to create the feeling of a mountain lodge, and used western themes throughout the hotel. He hired Montana artist J. K. Ralston to create a series of paintings about the life of Chief Washakie, who Del Monte recognized as one of the most important Wyomingites. Ralston, then at the beginning of his career, spent time in Lander researching the landscape and clothing of the Shoshone. He then painted twenty three large scale oil paintings. The paintings cover important parts of Washakie’s life from his becoming chief, to the battle of Crowheart Butte, the coming of white settlers, the creation of the reservation and his death as a revered leader. Ralston went on to become one of the major western artists and his work is highly sought after by collectors. ​Steff Kessler of Lander looking at the Noble History Comes Home exhibit. (h/t Fremont County Pioneer Museum) When the hotel closed in 1969 the paintings went in to storage. They were on display for two years at the state capitol in Cheyenne. The capitol building is closed for renovation and the Governor declined to buy the paintings to permanently display. The Alice C. Del Monte Trust, which owns the paintings, approached the Pioneer Museum about displaying them in Lander again. “We were thrilled to have the opportunity to host the paintings,” said museum Visitor Services Coordinator Randy Wise. “This is a major western art collection that has so many ties to this area: The Chief Washakie story, the connection to Lander and the Noble Hotel. It is especially nice to be able to have this exhibit during our 100th anniversary. It is an honor to be able to share these with the people of Fremont County again.” The museum will have an open house to celebrate the paintings on November 7. Starting at 10 a.m. and running until 2 p.m. there will be speakers about Washakie, Ralston and the Noble and special tours of the gallery. Refreshments will be served. The public is welcome to attend this free event. “What a wonderful thing to have back in Lander,” said Lander resident Gene Thompson. “This collection should be seen here where it was created and where Chief Washakie lived.” “We are grateful for all the hard work that has gone into getting this exhibit to happen,” said Fremont County Museums Central Director Scott Goetz. “We’d especially like to thank May and Dave Raynolds for their generous sponsorship of the exhibit. Without their support the display would not be nearly as complete.” The museum’s winter hours are currently Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ​A young Chief Washakie. h/t Fremont County Pioneer Museum from the Alice C. Del Monte Trust – J.K. Ralston collection #shortgo photo: A Shoshone Scout guides the army. h/t Fremont County Pioneer Museum from the Alice C. Del Monte Trust - J.K. Ralston collection