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Schoenherr, John

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1935-2010) US illustrator, today best known for his animal illustration, who was regarded by some critics as the finest sf artist of his generation. Born in New York City, Schoenherr studied at the Art Students League of New York and the Pratt Institute. He made his sf-Illustration debut in Amazing in 1956. His genre work appeared primarily in Astounding/Analog (including 75 covers), but he also drew black-and-white illustrations for other sf magazines, including Fantastic and Infinity Science Fiction, and worked for paperback publishers, most notably Ace Books and Pyramid. The cover and interior illustrations he did for Frank Herbert's Dune stories in Analog (1963-1965) are classics; some of the best are reproduced in Herbert's The Illustrated Dune (1978) and Frank Herbert's Dune Calendar 1978 (1977 chap).

Schoenherr's style in his colour work is Impressionistic, and he was regarded by his peers as the most "painterly" in their field. Some of his earlier work showed the influence of Richard M Powers, one of the few sf artists he admired. He carried his painting techniques over into his black-and-white work by using a dry-brush method on rough paper or scratchboard, with fine details added by pen; at the time he was one of the only sf illustrators to be working in scratchboard. His Aliens are particularly convincing, thanks perhaps to his love for animal illustration (for which he won several awards), and even his inanimate objects – like rock-forms – tend to look organic.

Schoenherr received a Hugo as best professional artist in 1965. Dissatisfied by poor standards in sf art – "with few exceptions it's really fourth rate" – and low budgets, he left the field in 1968, returning briefly in the 1970s to work again for Analog, now under Ben Bova's editorship. Among the many later books he illustrated, mainly for children and Young Adults, those with a genre connection include the 1980 edition of The Fallen Spaceman (May/June 1971 If; rev 1973; rev US 1980 chap) by Lee Harding, on which he worked with his son Ian Schoenherr, and Owl Moon (1987 chap) by Jane Yolen.

Outside the genre Schoenherr won over a dozen awards from the Society of Illustrators, plus the Caldecott Medal (1988, for Owl Moon), the Society of Animal Artists Award (1979, 1984) and a number of others. He had solo exhibitions at the New York Zoological Society (1968) and the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum (1997). He wrote as well as illustrated The Barn (1968 chap), The Art of Painting Wild Animals (1975), Bear (1991 chap) and Rebel (1995 chap). He was an Emeritus Member of the Society of Illustrators and of the American Society of Mammalogists, and a Member of the Society of Animal Artists; he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2015. [JG/PN/DRL/JGr]

John Carl Schoenherr

born New York: 5 July 1935

died Easton, Pennsylvania: 8 April 2010

works (selected)

works as illustrator (selected)

about the artist

  • Jerry Boyajian and David Stever. A John Schoenherr SF Checklist (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Paratime Press, 1977) [bibliography: chap: pb/John Schoenherr]
  • "Sketches: John Schoenherr Interview" (Summer-Fall 1978 Algol) [mag/]


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