Mathias J. Alten

Mathias Alten (1871–1938) was a German- American impressionist painter active in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A native of Germany, Alten immigrated to Grand Rapids as a teenager and grew to maturity in the city. He spent his career painting in Europe and across the U.S. in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon.

Alten’s artistic style evolved throughout his career. He began in the Barbizon, Naturalist tradition and transitioned into a second-generation Impressionistic style. Painting en plein air and working in natural light were particularly important to the artist. While best known for painting agrarian landscape and seascape scenes, Alten also painted still lifes and was known as a leading portrait artist during his time. Unique to his artistic oeuvre was his attraction to themes of agrarian labor, particularly draft animals.

Often referred to as the “Dean of Michigan Painters,” Alten travelled extensively seeking inspiration for his paintings, but always returned to Grand Rapids, his professional base of operation and his home until his death in 1938. It was where he received consistent patronage, exposure and acclaim for his art.