Art at GVSU

Art continues to be pivotal to the growth and thriving community that is Grand Valley State University. The Grand Valley State University Art Gallery creates and presents exhibitions, manages a multi-campus collection of original works of art, and coordinates numerous events, programs, and learning outreach opportunities throughout the year. The art gallery works to shape and enrich the lives of the Grand Valley State University and greater West Michigan regional community members and seeks to create global learning experiences and interdisciplinary educational opportunities.

The Mathias J. Alten Collection

What started as a private collection in the Gordons’ home soon outgrew the wall space and expanded into Gordon’s Grand Rapids business office in the Trust Building. Later, adjacent office space was obtained and transformed into his own gallery where he passionately curated a private gallery with dozens of Alten’s works hung salon-style. The Grand Rapids Art Museum took notice and asked to include nearly a dozen paintings from the Gordons’ collection in its 1998 retrospective exhibition, Mathias J. Alten: Journey of an American Painter.

Since opening in 2000, the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery has been devoted exclusively to exhibiting Alten’s work, and the Gordons have continued to annually build on their initial donation. Those commitments inspired gifts from other collectors, institutions, and Alten descendants. Three of Alten’s granddaughters, Gloria Alten Gregory, Dianne Demmon Boozer, and Anita M. Gilleo, donated, loaned, and promised gifts of paintings from their own collections. They also gave treasured family letters, photographs, and business records that document the artist’s personal life and the advancement of his professional career. These valuable assets are housed within the Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House on the university’s Allendale Campus. They can be viewed by students, faculty, staff, community members, and researchers, through the archives and online.


Self Portrait, Myself at 66


Based in Grand Rapids, Alten created more than 3,000 works of art during his prolific career, including landscapes, seascapes, portraits, and floral and still-life compositions. Working in a traditional representational style of painting, Alten incorporated the aesthetics and techniques of the Impressionist Movement in his paintings by infusing them with light and punctuating them with deft brushwork.

Early twentieth-century Grand Rapids delighted in Mathias Alten’s art. Impressed with his prodigious output, reviewers, collectors, and casual observers drew inspiration from canvases that brought painterly views of recognizable vistas, as well as the world outside of West Michigan, to the inhabitants of the Furniture City.

If you are interested in looking through the chronicles of Mathias Alten, click through below to view the timeline of his life.

A Special Thanks

Tim Gleisner
Manager of Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Division of the Grand Rapids Public Library

Julie Tabberer
Librarian of Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Division of the Grand Rapids Public Library

Nancy Richard
Archivist of Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Division of the Grand Rapids Public Library

Robert Beaseker
Director of Special Collections of Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Division of the Grand Rapids Public Library

Jerome Czaja
Chief Deputy Register at Kent County Clerk Office

Mary Hollinrake
Chief Deputy Register at Kent County Clerk Office

Mathias J. Alten Endowment
Preserves, protects and promotes the artwork and reputation of Mathias Alten in the Gordon Gallery

James A. Straub
Mathias J. Alten Catalogue Raisonné Lead Project Researcher

Anita M. Gilleo
Donor of the Mathias J. Alten Catalogue Raisonné

Kim Smith
Owner and Director of Perception Gallery in Grand Rapids