Renowned impressionist painter, Mathias J. Alten, spent the majority of his career in Grand Rapids, spreading influential talent and creativity throughout the city. Currently, Grand Valley State University owns the largest single known public collection of Alten’s work and proudly displays it in the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery in the DeVos Center on the Pew Campus.
A new publication, “Mathias J. Alten: An Evolving Legacy,” recently debuted at a “Friends of Alten” event organized by university development at GVSU in October 2016. The hardcover monograph, complete with vibrant color illustrations and scholarly essays, was created to honor and explore the legacy set in place by Alten.
The Gordon Gallery will be hosting an open house Friday, March 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to celebrate the book and offer attendees the opportunity to view the book and admire Alten’s work while enjoying some light refreshments.
“We hope students will accept this invitation to step out of the cold and into the gallery for a hot cup of coffee, art and conversation,” said Stacey Burns, programs manager at the GVSU gallery.
Alten, born in 1873 in Germany, immigrated to Grand Rapids as a teenager. He is often referred to as the “dean of Michigan painters,” and spent most of his career painting in European cities as well as places across the United States. No matter where his career took him, Alten always returned to the place that captured his heart and served as his base of operations–Grand Rapids. Alten remained in Grand Rapids for the remaining years of his life, and passed away in 1938.
“The Gordon’s underwrote the production of this book and share in the Art Gallery’s ambition of enriching the quality of life for students and community through direct engagement of original works of art,” said Alison Christensen, project manager of the GVSU art gallery.
The gallery faculty and staff banded together to bring “Mathias J. Alten: An Evolving Legacy” to campus. The book is intended to showcase both Alten’s intricate paintings that were donated to GVSU and the talent present within the university.
“Another reason why the book is important, is because the book showcases Alten’s paintings in a whole new way. The book is stunning, and comes close to capturing how beautiful the paintings are in the George and Barbara galleries,” Christensen said.
A copy of the book will be available for students to check out at the Mary Idema Pew Library on the Allendale Campus and the Steelcase Library on the Pew Campus. Students will also be able to take a brief look at the publication in the gallery space alongside Alten’s paintings.
The book will make its way to GVSU bookstores for $75 with the slipcase or $59.95 without. Each book will include a folded timeline poster pertaining to Alten’s life and all proceeds gathered from book purchases will go into the “Friends of Alten” endowment fund to support the needs directly tied to the care of Alten paintings in the gallery.
In the future, “Mathias J. Alten: An Evolving Legacy” will be available to view online.
“Our next step includes building a web portal website that pulls all related Alten works, including all of the content of this book, into one digital location,” Nathan Kemler, curator of collections management at the GVSU art gallery said.