Mathias Alten (18711938)
Mathias J. Alten, Artist
Mathias J. Alten was born in 1872 in Gusenburg, Germany. When he was 17 he and his family emigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan which was a major manufacturing area and art community.
In Germany he was an apprentice of Joseph Klein, a decorative painter, and worked on theaters and churches. When arriving in Grand Rapids, he worked for two years as a decorative painter for rathskellers and, also, ran a furniture decorating business and did fresco painting. He studied with Edwin A. Turner, wanting to become a professional artist and his first exhibit was in 1896 at the Michigan State Fair. He did florals and portrait paintings but his landscapes were his defining work.
In 1898 he went to France and studied at the Academie Julian and won a prize for the best figure drawing. He then took classes in animal drawing at a veterinary school. Then he traveled throughout Europe.
Back in Grand Rapids, his oil paintings showed a variety of objects. With Constant Fliermans, he opened a studio and art school. Then he began a career painting portraits and murals. He ground all of his own paints, which gave his paintings a rich hue that could not be duplicated. He used a palette knife to highlight his paintings.
He spent some time at the Old Lyme, Connecticut art colony and from 1902 he devoted himself to rural landscaping using Impressionist colors. He continued to travel to other areas going to Spain, California, Taos, New Mexico, Massachusetts but did most of his painting in Grand Rapids and Saugatuck.
Mathias Alten had a heart attack on 8 March 1938 and died after having a show with two other artists at the Chicago Galleries Association.
He is buried in Graceland Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Grand Rapids, Michigan.