Reloaded: Pew Campus art gallery finishes construction, adds new paintings

GVL / Matt Oberski 
GVSU Gordon Gallery located in the DeVos Center

GVL / Matt Oberski GVSU Gordon Gallery located in the DeVos Center

Stacy Sabaitis

The reopening of the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery will take place Sept. 15 from 1-5 p.m. after it underwent construction on the second floor gallery of DeVos Building E on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus.

Oil paintings by American Impressionist artist Mathias J. Alten mostly makes up this new second part of the gallery.

George and Barbara Gordon have been collecting Alten paintings for more than 10 years and many of his paintings depict scenes from around the Grand Rapids area.“We want to share what we have with the public,” George said. “Alten was one of the only artists of his time to stay in Grand Rapids.”

George said the collection includes an oil painting of the Grand River and 12 farm scenes, including a cranberry farm and a pumpkin farm. Some of the prominent bridges in the area are also featured in some of the paintings, but he added that there is only one winter scene of Grand Rapids, he believes, because Alten was rarely here during the winter months.

Another painting depicting a picnic at the Macatawa Park in Muskegon includes Alten’s daughters, brother and friends sitting at picnic tables.

George is proud of the collection, but his favorites are the still-life flower paintings, which consist of chrysanthemums, irises, and delphiniums. He said they are some of Alten’s best paintings.

One of Alten’s favorite places to paint was Old Lyme, Conn. Three of the gallery’s paintings depict the small town, George said.
Alten is also known for painting sycamore trees in California. George said the sycamore tree piece is one of the most prominent paintings in the collection.

George said while Alten lived in Grand Rapids for a long period, he also painted scenes from abroad – like a vibrant picture of oxen dragging the fishing boats in and out from the shore Alten painted while spending time in Valencia, Spain, “The people in the boats expected Alten to pay them $5 for painting their boats,” George said.

He painted pictures of the peasants in France, captured the vegetable stands that were set up there and painted shell fisherman in the Netherlands. The gallery remodel was necessary to accommodate the abundance of paintings the Gordon’s donated. “To support the paintings, they have also given funds to expand the building space for the galleries,” said Nathan Kemler, collection’s manager at GVSU. Kemler said Alten painted more than 2,000 works during his lifetime.

“We have 72 works of art by Mathias Alten in the collection, the overwhelming majority of which was a gift of George and Barbara Gordon,” said Henry Matthews, director of galleries and collections at GVSU.

The gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. except during holidays, and is free and open to the public. For more information go to the art gallery’s website at
[email protected]