Thursday, April 15, 2010

Children's and Sci-Fi Book Illustrator John Schoenherr Dies

Dune book coverFrank Herbert was so taken with Schoenherr's illustrations, he declared Schoenherr to be "the only man who has ever visited Dune."

John SchoenherrWell-known artist and illustrator John Schoenherr died on April 8 of chronic pulmonary disease. He was 74. He illustrated more than 40 children's books and hundreds of science fiction covers, including some for Philip K. Dick, Anne McCaffrey, and John Brunner.

This wildlife artist who once said he identified more with animals than people, grew up in New York City. His family spoke German but the children in his Queens neighborhood spoke English, Chinese, and Italian. Feeling like a mute he picked up some chalk and drew, learning English later on from comic strips.

At age 8 Schoenherr received his first set of paints, and at 13 began taking Saturday classes at the Art Students League in New York City. He started getting recognition as a science fiction illustrator when he was 21. He credits John Campbell, publisher of Astounding Science Fiction magazine (now Analog Science Fiction and Fact), for the opportunity to hone his personal brand of realism through illustrating for the magazine.

Schoenherr was the first artist to draw the world of Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Pern. "Dune World" and "The Prophet of Dune" was published in two parts in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1963 and 1965; in 1965 he won a Hugo Award for Best Artist. From the 1950s to the late 1970s, Schoenherr contributed hundreds of his imaginative drawings to science fiction books and magazines.

Schoenherr won a Caldecott Medal for illustrating Jane Yolen's Owl Moon, a story about a man and his daughter who bundle up and go "owling" on a cold, moonlit night; and he illustrated Jean Craighead George's Julie of the Wolves, winner of the 1973 Newbery Medal. Schoenherr is the author of several children's books, including The Barn and Bear.

In a 1967 letter John Campbell wrote mourning the loss of Schoenherr to Reader's Digest and big publishing companies because they paid more, he called Schoenherr "the best artist science fiction ever had." Schoenherr is survived by his wife, Judith; his son Ian and daughter Jennifer; two grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Ian Schoenherr is a also writer and illustrator of children's books.

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