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Alice and Martin Provensen Vintage Children’s Illustration

October 25, 2010


Martin and Alice Provensen worked as a team, so much so that noone ever seemed to know

which artist had created which piece of art, it was as though they worked with a singular mind.

Even before they met, they had had remarkably similar early life experiences.

Both of them were born in Chicago, Illinois, and their families moved to California

when they were twelve years of age. In California, they graduated from high school

and college. Martin worked for the Disney Studio, in the Story Department, from 1937 to 1941.

Alice worked with the artists who drew for the Walter Lantz Studio,

the creators of Woody Woodpecker. Both studios were in Hollywood.

They didn’t meet until 1943, when Martin, who was now in the Navy,

was assigned to the Walter Lantz Studio to help create instructional films for the military.

Alice and Martin married in 1944 and moved to Washington, D.C.,

where both were employed in war-related jobs. When peace was declared,

the couple moved to New York City, where friend and artist Gustaf Tenggren

helped them get their first picture book illustration assignment.

That first book was The Fireside Book of Folk Songs.

They bought a farm in upstate New York, and their book A Year at Maple Hill Farm,

has become a classic. They illustrated several Golden Books, among them

The Color Kittens and Animal Farm. In 1982, one of their illustrated books,

A Visit to William Blake’s Inn, by Nancy Willard, received the Newbery Medal.

In 1984, the couple received the Caldecott Medal for The Glorious Flight,

about French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot.

Sadly ,Martin Provensen died of a heart attack in 1987, at age 70.

With one half of her picture book team gone, Alice didn’t know if she would create

any more children’s books. “You see,” she says, “we were a true collaboration. Martin and I

really were one artist.” In 1990, with the encouragement of her editor, Linda Zuckerma

at Viking Press, and her innate curiosity and love of research, Alice Provensen published

The Buck Stops Here: the Presidents of the United States. Since then, she has researched, written,

and illustrated several more noteworthy books.

Martin was responsible for creating the early version of Tony The Tiger for Kelloggs,

way back then he was teaming up with Groucho Marx to say ‘They’re Gr-r-r-reat !’


5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2012 1:50 pm

    Thank for writing about these wonderful artists.

    • February 5, 2012 3:19 pm

      No problem Mary. thanks for your comment too. I love your Sparrows quilt too, lovely design.

  2. January 11, 2015 3:45 pm

    Just stumbled across this! Brilliant, thank you


  1. Aesop Fables – Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen | Illustrations by Shafali
  2. just google these inspirational illustrators :) | LEARNING LOG Carly OCA student ID: 513206

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