Ballet illustration. Tales from the Ballet, selected by Louis Untermeyer (Golden Press, 1968). Illustration by Alice Provensen (American, born 1917 or 1918) and Martin Provensen (American, 1916–1987).
After the war the Provensens moved to New York where a friend helped them get their first job, illustrating The Fireside Book of Folk Songs. They illustrated several Little Golden Books including The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown (1949). In 1952, Tony the Tiger, designed by Martin, debuted as a Kellogg’s mascot.
Tales from the Ballet. Selected and adapted by Louis Untermeyer. Illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen. Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1969.
“Ballets are stories with music but without words. The dancers express what is happening in pantomime, by movement and gesture. However, in telling these stories I have put words into the mouths of the characters.” So this marvelous, magical collection of ballet stories came to be.
all artists featured are women, and each work is by a different artist. the artists are from france, england, russia, korea, mexico, and the united states. some are contemporary and many date back to the early 20th century, when children’s illustration was perhaps one of the few genres available to women artists.
in order of the listing, the artists are: adjoa burrowes, alice provensen, amy cordova, anneclaire macé, beatrix potter, chun eunsil, dorothy lathrop, evaline ness, jessie willcox smith, and mabel lucie attwell.
100 Illustrators that all Illustrators should know: #56
Alice Provensen (1917-)
Martin Provensen (1916-1987)
Famous for: Storybooks for children (particularly Golden Books), Disney illustration, Tony the Tiger
Influenced: Unsure of this at the moment. Will research this more in the future.
Influenced by: Animation, Persian Miniatures, Italian Primitives, Decorative artwork
Alice and Martin Provensen were an American couple, both illustrators, who worked on more than 40 children’s books together collaboratively, several of which were authored and edited by them. Both were born in Chicago and moved to California when they were 12, and coincidently both received scholarships to the Art institute of Chicago and attended The University of California (though at separate campuses) before ever meeting each other. Alice worked at Walter Lantz Studio after college, the studio responsible for Woody Woodpecker, whereas Martin took work with their rival Walt Disney Studio, where he’d work on films such as Dumbo, Fantasia and Pinocchio. The couple would meet when Martin was assigned a military training film project at Walter Lantz Studio, and were married in 1944. The couple would then illustrate many iconic Golden Books, and then designed Kellogg’s mascot, Tony the Tiger. The couple is known for their distinctive flat and decorative style, and were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2000.
Now it’s way past Alice Provensen’s birthday, August 14th to be exact, but I just couldn’t help showing this one. Alice and her husband Martin are two of my favorite illustrators. Martin passed away in 1987, but Alice is still out there illustrating. I did this piece as an Op Art in my Op Ed class this past fall taught by the great Paul Rogers and Brian Rea.