The Charge of the Light Brigade is Alice and Martin Provensen’s visual interpretation of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem written in 1854. It recounts the charge of the British Light Brigade led by Lord Cardigan, against the Russian forces during the Battle of the Balaclava in the Crimean War. Published six weeks after this event, the poem’s lines emphasize the valor of the cavalry in bravely carrying out their orders, regardless of the deadly consequences. A subject of fascination, several paintings have been rendered on this. One was done by English artist and illustrator Richard Caton Woodville in 1894 for the Illustrated London News which commissioned him to work on a commemorative series recreating the most famous British battles of history. In their illustration, Provensens' successfully used repetition to create depth, rhythm and movement in the image seen on this page.
The Charge of the Light Brigade illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
Students will create their own mixed media symmetry scene with using the book The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alice and Martin Provensen as reference.
Going About Your Artwork
Students will start with a blue piece of construction paper. Divide the page in half. Cut and paste strips of white tissue paper on one side of the page. After drying, students will paint landscape scenery (in this example- a tree) and fold over the page while paint is still wet. The result creates a symmetrical image. Paste strips of white tissue paper over the image that was transferred to create more depth in the scene. To embellish, splatter painting white tempera.
The Provensens lived for projects that plunged them deep into the study of art styles and story traditions of past times and distant places, and which gave them free rein to draw and paint on a grand scale. Aesop’s Fables—an ancient tale cycle long associated with children’s story hour—and Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses were natural subjects for them. But so too were the mighty Homeric epics, Norse Sagas, and The Song of Roland. For countless young readers, The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends illustrated by the Provensens during the 1950s and 1960s were cultural gateway experiences: lucid, lively, unforgettable introductions to art, literature, ideas, and the greatest stories ever told. And as for The Charge of the Light Brigade, in panoramic paintings inspired by archival images as well as by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s classic narrative poem, they dramatized the heroism and tragedy of war as never before in a children’s picture book. Books illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen offer a gateway to the young readers for study of history.
Image seen here is the original painting by illustrator Richard Caton Woodville done in 1894 for the Illustrated London News. Imagine yourselves in the midst of these scenes. Be an art investigator. Compare the two paintings for their differences and similarities. It’s easier to see the contrast between the Provensens’ work and the one painted by Woodville.
Image © 1894, Richard Caton Woodville, Illustrated London News Ltd.