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Alten paintings travel to Naples

  • Fisherman's Cove at Low Tide by Mathias J. Alten

Posted on January 19, 2011

In conjunction with Grand Valley’s 50th anniversary, more than 30 paintings by Mathias J. Alten from the university’s collection will be exhibited in Naples, Florida, home to many seasonal and full-time Midwesterners and alumni.

“Mathias J. Alten: Discovery of an American Impressionist,” a selection of paintings from the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery and friends, is a featured exhibition at The von Liebig Art Center, in Naples, from January 22-February 20. The exhibit is partially sponsored by West Michigan supporters of the university including Fifth Third Private Bank (Western Michigan); Plastic Surgery Associates, Dr. David Moore and Dr. John Renucci; George and Barbara Gordon; and Bette and Bernon Young.  

Grand Valley boasts the largest public collection of works by Alten (1871-1938), who is often referred to as the “Dean of Michigan Painters.” He immigrated to Grand Rapids, from his native Germany, initially working as a furniture decorator and later owning his own wallpaper, paint and artists’ supply business.

Alten began as a naturalistic scene painter, eventually transitioning from Barbizon and Tonalist traditions to an Impressionist style. His devotion to rural and agrarian work themes continued throughout his career and sets Alten apart from many of his peers. He is currently regarded as a celebrated American regionalist artist, known for producing more than 2,500 works of art throughout his lifetime.

Private collectors, George and Barbara Gordon, determined their Alten paintings should be on permanent public display and made the lead gift to Grand Valley in 1991, which prompted donations from others. They continue to build on that gift. An article about the collection and traveling exhibition appears in the February issue of American Art Review.

“I can think of no better way to celebrate our 50th anniversary with our friends in Naples than to share this incredible artwork with them,” said Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas. “We are blessed to have the generosity of many sponsors and supporters who made this exhibit possible. Their support makes the university’s long standing commitment to art in public spaces a reality.”

For more information about the exhibition, visit
For more information about the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery at Grand Valley, call 616-331-2563, or visit


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