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Ati Forberg Mid century Children’s Book Illustrator Part 1

November 25, 2019

Ati Gropius Johansen (1926 – September 7, 2014) was an artist, graphic designer and teacher. Originally born in Wiesbaden, Germany, Ati Gropius Johansen’s given name was Beate, pronounced as if it was the first part of Beatrice. Her nickname, Ati, which she used all her life, sprung from the way she tried to say Beate as a child, when she couldn’t manage the pronunciation. Her mother was the sister of Ise Gropius, the second wife of Walter Gropius. At about 9, Ati was adopted by her aunt and uncle when her mother died. Her new parents offered an exit in the early 1930s from the rise of Nazism in Germany. She lived in England for about three years until Walter Gropius accepted a teaching position at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and she joined her adoptive parents in the United States.

She attended the Chicago Institue of Design and Black Mountain College, where she was a pupil of Josef Albers. She was instrumental in continuing the legacy of her father through her teaching. Her career in art, started out very diverse. After doing various projects in advertising, display, graphics, and book jacket design.

At 21, after finishing at Black Mountain, she married architect and designer Charles Forberg, who with Edward Larrabee Barnes created the logo for Pan American World Airways. The couple lived in Boston, Rome, Colorado, and Chicago before settling in New York City.

Her marriage to Forberg ended in divorce and she later married John M. Johansen, who was the last surviving member of the Harvard Five architects — a group that had been influenced by her father — when he died in 2012. They lived for many years in Stanfordville, north of New York City, where he designed his famous Plastic Tent House. They spent summers in the Wellfleet home they purchased in the mid-1970s, and Mrs. Johansen moved there year-round several years ago.

“She fell deeply in love with Wellfleet,” her Ati’s daughter said. “She loved nature and loved light. She was so sensitive to light. She would always say to me in August, ‘Don’t you see how different the light is?’ She saw all of that.”

Here’s a small example of the diverse range of books she illustrated.

In many different styles and using a whole variety of media and techniques.

There’s a beautiful sense of tranquility mixed with solitude about her work.

New books to old classics.

From workshops she taught in

Wellfleet to classes she led at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Walter Gropius School in Erfurt, Germany, Ati had a wide geographic reach as a teacher.

Whatever the theme, Ati’s work takes you to the essence of the action.

Great inky lines, give a feeling of strength and movement.

More of Ati’s work to come next week. Tune in next monday.

And for those of you who are local to Manchester, don’t forget to pop along to the Sale Arts Trail this coming Saturday where myself and 35 other designer/makers will be exhibiting their hand-made crafts. I’ll have some new ceramics with me and there will be a fine array of Illustration, painting, jewellery, textiles and much more. Do say hello.

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