Art display and a reception to feature Monroe brothers

An art exhibit and reception will center on two brothers who contributed original paintings, sketches and other pieces to the region’s art scene in the first half of the 20th century.

Alpine County Historical Society’s fundraiser from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Alpine County Museum will celebrate the life and legacy of Walt and Art Monroe.

Paintings by the brothers from private and other collections will be shown for the first time at the fundraiser.

The exhibit is free, but donations will be accepted to offset expenses and make money for the museum, located at 1 State Route 89, Markleeville.

Also, the Historical Society is searching for paintings by Walt for documentation and exhibition at a later date.

Walt was born in the mining town of Monitor, south of Markleeville, in 1881. The family moved to a small ranch just outside of Markleeville where seven more children joined the family.

When he was 16, he had his first art exhibit at a hotel in Carson City, an event noted in the Nevada Appeal: “In Markleeville, Alpine County, California, lives a boy by the name of Walter Monroe. He is a genius in his way. There is on exhibition at the Briggs House some very superior hand carvings of horses and dogs done by this young life. His perfect work is done with a jack knife.”

Some of his carvings are on permanent exhibit at the Alpine County Museum.

Though Walt was a prolific artist, canvas and other art supplies were non-existent in Markleeville at the time. If he didn’t have canvas, he painted on wood, cardboard, tin, even pans and anything else he could get his hands on. Members of the Monroe family still have a collection of letters whose backs are covered in Walt’s sketches.

The artist never married, perhaps because he was often on the road traveling between Oregon, Bishop, Tonopah and Markleeville, where his parents, siblings and cousins lived.

He traveled on his motorcycle with a sidecar packed with clothing, canvas, paints and other art supplies. He didn’t have a regular job, but he was a competent carpenter and mechanic.

When Walt arrived in Markleeville, he wasn’t an unwanted guest — he was known for making toys, sleds, skis and other items out of salvaged goods for local children.

Members of the Historical Society said although he called many places home, he loved Alpine County — especially Markleeville — and it was his favorite subject to paint and sketch.

He died June 13, 1945 in a Reno hospital and is buried in Woodfords, Calif., with his grandparents.

The artist had family ties to Alpine County, Carson City, Virginia City, Carson Valley, Mason Valley, Tonopah and Bishop, so it’s likely his work may be hanging at local sites.

Many locals are known to have purchased or been given art from the struggling artist from 1895 and into the 1940s. The society says he generally signed his work at the bottom right corner, but not always.

For information or if you have Walt Monroe paintings or other art, contact Shannon Hickey at 775-315-0697 or Alpine County Historical Society, P.O. Box 517, Markleeville, Calif., 96120.


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