The Life and Family of J.K. Ralston

Program Description

The Life and Family of J.K. Ralston describes the history of James Kenneth Ralston’s decades-long career as one of the three Rs (Russell, Remington and Ralston) Western artists, and the only one of the three who was born a Montanan. From the perspective of a beloved granddaughter, this presentation reviews Ralston’s family history, his decision to be a painter despite the challenges of the times, and his steady rise to prominence in the Western art arena. Through commercial jobs painting signs, WPA commissions in public buildings and ranching work, Ralston honed his craft. Recording the West and bringing it to life in vivid and accurate detail as Ralston experienced it was a calling from which he could not turn away. He benefited from a strong partner in his wife who managed the business side of creating art and aligned with loyal and supportive benefactors and patrons who encouraged him in his work.

The Fifties and Sixties were a prolific period for J.K. who lived with his family and painted in a cabin on the outskirts of Billings. During that time, the National Park Service commissioned Ralston to render a depiction of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, easily one of his best and most famous works seen by thousands of people passing the Little Big Horn visitors center. Publishing a book, “Rhymes of Cowboy,” represented another milestone in Ralston’s storied career that included serving as a historical consultant on Little Big Man and induction into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

J.K. Ralston’s life and career features joy, sadness, love, hardship, challenges and ultimately success against the backdrop of the Great American West’s formative and tumultuous history. His legacy is intertwined with that of all Westerners who strive live the Cowboy Way and his works continue to resonate that life and its values.

Presenter Bio

A’Lisa Scott is a 5th generation Montanan who has lived and worked in Missoula for almost forty years. Born and raised in Bozeman, A’Lisa attended the University of Montana, and graduated from University of Southern Maine. An early talent for entertaining led her to major in performance art that has since evolved into playing an integral role in the choir at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Missoula for the last 33 years. Other roles A’Lisa has played include entrepreneur, business manager, ranch wife, bonus mom, and dog mom to a series of Labradors. The cats let her feed them, too. Now she spends her time managing a rambunctious Labrador named Ellie and the J.K. Ralston Preservation Committee, set up to protect and preserve her grandfather’s legacy and important collection.


A’Lisa Scott