Student Perspectives on the Art Collection


Permanent link for Mathias Alten's French Studies on October 15, 2020

Student Perspective Provided By:

Erin Harshberger
Major: English and Education
Minor: Political Science
Class of 2021

In preparation for the exhibition MATHIAS J. ALTEN: AN AMERICAN ARTIST AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY that traveled to The Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, September 20, 2020 through January 31, 2021, the #GVSU Art Gallery team, including staff and students, gathered stories and information about Alten's life and work that create a vivid portrait of the artist. Here, Erin Harshberger, GVSU class of 2021,

shares her thoughts on a unique painting by Mathias Alten.

'French Studies'
Mathias Alten
Oil on board

"These four studies of hayfields and seashores painted in oil on a single panel were done on a trip to France. The trip was meant to broaden Mathias Alten’s exposure to and practice of new styles of painting. This is a look into Alten’s personal growth and the progress of his technique. I was really drawn in to this piece; something so imperfect and personal shared in a gallery is something I’ve never seen before. In these four quadrants there is evidence of Alten’s traditional training, in the intricate brush strokes of the golden grass on the bottom right. You can see stylistic growth from this time in France in the broad, long strokes that outline the pond on the top left. In the bottom left quadrant he uses thick dark gray strokes for the ship’s sails layered on top of each other, similar to the top right side where the colors of the landscape lay atop each other to create depth. 

Working on this project has required me to dive deeper into Alten’s finished pieces that are so highly esteemed; paintings that are more commonly seen in a gallery setting. It is unusual to display art in its preliminary stages. Alten probably thought this study would never be seen by anyone other than himself, but seeing it next to his finished pieces highlights how much effort goes into a finished painting." Erin Harshberger

Learn more about Mathias Alten's work and life online at

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Page last modified October 15, 2020