“We have been working together for so long that it has ceased to be a question of who does what. . . . We pass [an illustration] back and forth between us until we are both satisfied. It is a happy collaboration.” ~ Alice and Martin Provensen
Alice Provensen (b. 1918) met her husband Martin (1916-1987) in Los Angeles in 1943, where both held coveted spots in the burgeoning animation industry—he at Disney, she at the rival Walter Lantz Studio, creator of “Woody Woodpecker.” During the war years, the Provensens worked on military training films. Then, with the war’s end, they turned to book illustration and, joining forces as a tight-knit, soon-to-be-legendary collaboration team, created book after book of rare graphic distinction, nearly all of them for children.
The Provensens first made their mark as the illustrators of such hugely popular Little Golden Books as Margaret Wise Brown’s The Color Kittens and of larger-scale Golden volumes like Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. They were known from the start for their sprightly wit and elegant contemporary design sense. Over the years, their work deepened as the couple pursued their love of historical research, world travel, and artistic self-reinvention. No project was too big or daunting for them. The Iliad and the Odyssey! The Charge of the Light Brigade! Tales from the Ballet! Often they chose the road less traveled, crafting intimate, sketch-book-style picture books like The Year at Maple Hill Farm about life in the country; or chronicling little-known true stories, as in The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Blériot, for which they won the 1984 Caldecott Medal. After Martin Provensen died, Alice carried on, creating an astonishing array of new work, from the monumental The Buck Stops Here to the cozily charming A Day in the Life of Murphy.
Glorious Flights: The Illustration Art of Alice and Martin Provensen is curated by Leonard Marcus.
Leonard Marcus is one of the world's leading writers about children's books and the people who create them. He is the author of more than 20 award-winning books. Leonard is a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review and a frequent commentator on radio and television. A long-time adviser to the NCCIL and a trustee on the NCCIL National Board, he also serves as a trustee of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. He has curated numerous exhibitions, including the NCCIL's most popular exhibition, Golden Legacy: Original Art from 65 years of Golden Books, and The New York Public Library's recent landmark exhibit, The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter. Leonard teaches at NYU and the School of Visual Arts and lectures about his work throughout the world.