Welcome back lounger. Firstly, let me wish you a happy new year. Hope you took the chance to relax and de-stress. Over our December break we kept our idle hands busy. Talking to illustrators and harvesting plans to bring you more diversified content. The most obvious yield of our busy hands is our new uncluttered website theme. We have stripped everything down to the essentials with the aim of making browsing the features, the Cabinet and the Bookshelf more enjoyable. You may notice we have removed our comment section, but that is certainly not a subtle hint. We still love to hear from fellow Loungers, and you can always reach out to us on Twitter, where we will be waiting to hear your thoughts on the new theme.
With that out of the way and without further ado, I present to you our very first inspirational feature of the 2016, Alice and Martin Provensen. The beloved couple are famous for illustrating more than 40 children’s books together, many of which they also wrote. They are also responsible for bringing to life Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger.
Alice was born August 14, 1918 and Martin was born July 10, 1916. The pair had some uncanny similarities growing up. Both were born in Chicago, moved to California when they were twelve, received scholarships to the Art Institute of Chicago and attended the University of California. After their studies their paths started differ. Alice worked at the animation studio Walter Lantz Productions, home of Woody Woodpecker. While Martin worked at Walt Disney Studio, on their feature-length films Dumbo, Fantasia, and Pinocchio. The two finally crossed paths in 1943, and got married the following year.
The Provensen’s moved to New York City. There, with help from a friend they landed their first job together, illustrating The Fireside Book of Folk Songs (1947). They later illustrated Little Golden Book’s The Fuzzy Duckling (1949), The Color Kittens (1949) and The Little Fat Policeman (1950). In 1952, Kellogg’s approached the couple to design some mascots for their cereal, Frosted Flakes. In addition to Tony the Tiger, they designed an entire “Kellogg’s Zoo” with animal mascots including Katy the Kangaroo, Zeke the Zebra, Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu. All of which have dissipated through time. However, Frosted Flakes’ lead mascot, Tony the Tiger was heavily featured in Kellogg’s advertising campaigns, making him an icon in the process.
The lucrative Kellogg’s commissions gave the Provensens a lot of exposure, and was probably a nice change from the lower-paying fees of the children’s book at the time. Even so, the couple continued to illustrate children’s books well into the 1980s, up until Martin’s death in 1987. They won a Caldecott Medal for The Glorious Flight (1983), which they also wrote. It was also called the “most distinguished American picture book for children” by the American Library Association. Eight of their books have been named on the The New York Times annual Ten Best Illustrated Books list. Alice said this of their partnership,
“we were a true collaboration. Martin and I really were one artist.”
Alice Provensen has continued to illustrate children’s books. Since 1990 she has written and illustrate seven books, including Punch in New York, published in 1991, which is considered her best solo work. Now,well into her 90s, she has continued to work on publishing projects regularly.
Some of my favourite Provensen books, and a great place to get into their work, are Tales from the Ballet (1968), The Voyage of the Ludgate Hill (1987) and the aforementioned, acclaimed The Glorious Flight (1983).