On the shelf: New GVSU book highlights the life and art of Mathias J. Alten

A new publication spotlights the life and artistic works of Mathias J. Alten, who called the city of Grand Rapids his home. Grand Valley State University owns the largest known single public collection of Alten’s works and papers in the world.


The book, entitled “Mathias J. Alten: An Evolving Legacy,” is a hard cover monograph that includes color illustrations and scholarly essays exploring Alten’s artistic legacy.


Grand Valley’s George and Barbara Gordon Gallery currently displays 96 pieces of Alten’s work. His vast résumé of creations has also been exhibited widely at major American art institutions, and many can be seen in various buildings around Grand Rapids.


Stacey Burns, Galleries and Collections program manager, said the book celebrates the ongoing gifts to the university of Alten paintings by individuals from around the U.S., and by lead donors George and Barbara Gordon.


“The book demonstrates Grand Valley’s commitment to active scholarship and visual learning,” she said. “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 the community through direct engagement with original works of art.”


A native of Germany, Alten immigrated to Grand Rapids as a teenager. Often referred to as the “Dean of Michigan Painters,” Alten spent his career painting in Europe and across the U.S., but always returned to Grand Rapids, his professional base of operations and home until his death in 1938.


The book will make its public debut during a special community open house Friday, March 3, from 3 – 5 p.m. in the Gordon Gallery, located in Building E of Grand Valley’s DeVos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.


“We planned the open house to be a respite from winter where educators, students, the regional museum community and the public could visit the gallery and share experiences, ask questions and explore ideas,” said Burns.


“Mathias J. Alten: An Evolving Legacy” will be available for purchase at Grand Valley’s Laker Store beginning March 3.


To RSVP for the community open house, contact the Art Gallery at (616) 331-2563 or gallery@gvsu.edu. More information can also be found at gvsu.edu/artgallery.