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Elmer Alexander Forsberg 1883-1950


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Elmer Forsberg was born in 1883 at Yxpila in Karleby, Finland, son of Adolf Alexander Forsberg and Signe Katherine Bonde, and emigrated to the US in 1891 with his family. They settled in Chicago, Illinois where he studied art from 1904-08 and graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a faculty member there from 1906-1950, becoming head of the Department of Drawing, Painting and Illustration in 1930. He remained at the Institute as an instructor and lecturer for over 40 years. Some of his students became outstanding artists: Grant Wood and Dean Cornwell. While at the Institute he also associated with Walt Disney and Frank Lloyd Wright.

He traveled to Finland several times between 1911 and 1925 and lectured in his homeland where he was closely associated with Jean Sibelius, Axel Gallen-Kallela, Pekka Halonen, Albert Edelfelt and Eliel Saarinen. In 1923 he was awarded Chevalier of the First Class-Cross of the White Rose of Finland - the second American to receive this award. From 1924-40 he was Consul of Finland for the Midwest. In 1936 he was listed in "Who's Who in Chicago and Vicinity."

On 19 June 1915 he married Anna Olivia Sandquist from Finland, d. 1951. They had two children: Margaretha (Greta) and Neils, d. 1 Sep 1950. Neils and his wife Eileen lived in !LaBlanca, TX and had previously lived in Houston. After Elmer's death, his paintings were divided between his children. Those belonging to Greta have disappeared and the paintings Neils had are in the possession of his wife Eileen and daughter Leslie Harris. Elmer's paintings have been exhibited in various institutes including the Chicago World's Fair in 1933-34, and some of his works are in permanent collections.

His students called him a man who lived and worked with great integrity and honesty. These virtues are reflected in his paintings of Finland, the American west, midwest and his portraits. He was a sensitive and intuitive artist who projected feeling into his works of art which were described as living and fluid.

Elmer Forsberg continued to teach until his death in 1950 and his students have passed on his traits in their work.

June Pelo


  • Who's Who in Chicago and Vicinity, 1936
  • Katherine Atkinson
  • Fredrik Forsberg

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