This eight-by-five foot oil painting dominates the Ouray County Museum's Walsh Room. Judging from photographs, the 1925 painting is a fairly realistic, albeit flattering, likeness of Evalyn at age 39. She stands between her two young sons. Evalyn, in a diaphanous lavender dress and satin slippers, is "dressed down" for the occasion, wearing a single long strand of pearls in lieu of her customary diamonds. The mantel in the background suggests the painting was done at the McLeans' mansion in Washington D.C..
In 1896, Tom Walsh, an enterprising Irish immigrant, sifted through some abandoned silver claims located southwest of Ouray. Assays taken showed gold ore that ran as high as three thousand dollars a ton. Walsh began operation of the Camp Bird gold mine, a mine that made him a multimillionaire. Walsh is remembered for taking good care of his miners. He sold the mine in 1902 to a London syndicate for six million dollars. The Walsh family moved to Washington D. C. and there, his wife and daughter Evalyn became socialites. Evalyn wrote the autobiography “Father Struck it Rich,” which is one of the most popular books on Ouray's history.
Of all the historic images in the Ouray County’s Museum, the portrait of Evalyn Walsh McLean is most likely to stop visitors in their tracks. Tom Walsh, Evalyn’s father, owned the world famous Camp Bird Mine. Philip de Laszlo, the celebrated Hungarian artist known for his portraits of European royalty, received a commission of $30,000 to paint Evalyn. The Hope Diamond, purchased by Evalyn from her father's inheritance, has a connection to Ouray, and the story of its legend, including the diamond's supposed bad luck, intrigues museum visitors.
Ouray County Historical Society
420 6th Ave
Ouray, CO 81427