John Schoenherr

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John Schoenherr
BornJohn Carl Schoenherr
(1935-07-05)July 5, 1935
New York City, New York
DiedApril 8, 2010(2010-04-08) (aged 74)
Easton, Pennsylvania, USA
GenreScience fiction, children's picture books
Notable works
Notable awards
SpouseJudith Grey
ChildrenIan, Jenny

John Carl Schoenherr (July 5, 1935 – April 8, 2010)[1] was an American illustrator. He won the 1988 Caldecott Medal for U.S. children's book illustration, recognizing Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, which recounts the story of the first time a father takes his youngest child on a traditional outing to spot an owl. He was posthumously inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015.[2][3]


Schoenherr was born in New York City (Manhattan) and raised in Queens, "in a German-speaking household in a polyglot community", where he used drawings to communicate with speakers of other languages.[1] He graduated from Stuyvesant High School,[4] and studied art at the Art Students League of New York with Will Barnet and at Pratt Institute.

Schoenherr was a resident of Delaware Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey.[5] He died on April 8, 2010, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Easton, Pennsylvania.[1]


Schoenherr may be known best as the original illustrator of the dust jacket art of Dune,[6] a 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert that inaugurated a book series and media franchise.[7] He had previously illustrated the serializations of the novel in Analog, an endeavor which secured him a 1965 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist.[6][8] He later did the art for the Analog serialization of Herbert's Children of Dune.[6] In 1978 Berkley Books published The Illustrated Dune, an edition of Dune with 33 black-and-white sketch drawings and 8 full color paintings by Schoenherr.[6][7] Herbert wrote in 1980 that though he had not spoken to Schoenherr prior to the artist creating the paintings, the author was surprised to find that the artwork appeared exactly as he had imagined its fictional subjects, including sandworms, Baron Harkonnen and the Sardaukar.[9]

Schoenherr was also very well known as a wildlife artist and children's book illustrator, with over forty books to his credit. Most of his black-and-white illustration work used the scratchboard technique, and he was long known as the only commercial artist who specialized in it. His paintings were often egg tempera, another unusual medium. Schoenherr also completed paintings for NASA.[10][11][12] Schoenherr's knowledge of zoology was very useful in creating alien creatures. He was a member of the American Society of Mammalogists, the Society of Animal Artists, and the Society of Illustrators.

Beginning in the 1960s, Schoenherr created numerous science fiction illustrations, in addition to artwork in other genres.[13] Among the books he illustrated are The Wolfling and Rascal by Sterling North, the latter a Newbery Honor Book. Under John W. Campbell, Jr. and Ben Bova at Analog, he also illustrated the first Dragonriders of Pern stories by Anne McCaffrey, the 1967/1968 novellas "Weyr Search" and "Dragonrider" (each featured on one Analog cover as well) that were subsequently developed as the novel Dragonflight.[14] Schoenherr's July 1975 cover for Analog has been cited as influential in the designs for the Star Wars character Chewbacca.[15] He also worked for paperback and hardcover science fiction publishers like Ace Books and Doubleday.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (April 15, 2010). "John Schoenherr, Children's Book Illustrator, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  2. ^ a b "2015 SF&F Hall of Fame Inductees & James Gunn Fundraiser". Locus. June 12, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "John Schoenherr: American illustrator known for his science fiction magazine covers and drawings". Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. EMP Museum ( Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  4. ^ "Biography – John Schoenherr". Retrieved 2007-11-02.
  5. ^ Adelson, Fred B. (January 9, 2000). "ART; Children's Page Turners to Linger Over". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
    Both Richard Egielski of Milford and John Schoenherr of Delaware Township (near Stockton) are represented by illustrations from books aimed at ages 4 to 8, the youngest group.
  6. ^ a b c d e Love, Jeff (August 16, 2013). "Dune: The Most Important Science Fiction Art Ever". Omni Reboot. Retrieved 2014-10-31.
  7. ^ a b Dune Universe series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  8. ^ a b "1965 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards ( Archived from the original on 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2014-10-31.
  9. ^ Herbert, Frank (July 1980). "Dune Genesis". Omni. Reprinted with permission at Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2014-10-31.
  10. ^ DeVore, Howard (1987). A History of the Hugo, Nebula and International Fantasy Awards 1951–1986. Dearborn, Michigan: The Misfit Press. p. 18.
  11. ^ Miller, Ron (1976). Space Art: A Starlog Photo Guidebook. New York: Starlog Press. p. 179.
  12. ^ DiFate, Vincent (1980). DiFate's Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware. New York: Workman Publishers.
  13. ^ DiFate, Vincent (1981). "Science Fiction Art: Some Contemporary Science Fiction Illustrators". In Tymn, Marshall B (ed.). The Science Fiction Reference Book. San Bernardino: The Borgo Press. p. 51.
  14. ^ Dragonriders of Pern series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  15. ^ Heilemann, Michael (September 18, 2010). "George Lucas stole Chewbacca, but it's Okay". Binary Bonsai. Archived from the original on August 8, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2015.

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