John Schoenherr, first artist to draw Dune, dead at 74

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

John Schoenherr, one of the finest science-fiction illustrators of the 1960s and 1970s—and the first artist to draw Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Pern—died Thursday at age 74. Herbert was so taken with Schoenherr's images that he referred to the artist as "the only man who has ever visited Dune."

Schoenherr was perhaps best known for his illustrations for Dune, which was first published in two parts as "Dune World" and "The Prophet of Dune" in the science fiction magazine Analog in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and for which he won the 1965 Hugo Award for Best Artist. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the late 1970s, Schoenherr contributed hundreds of distinctive and memorable illustrations for various science fiction magazines and books.

For those of us who discovered science fiction in the 1960s, John Schoenherr was one of a handful of artists who helped create our visual memory of the classic science fiction of that era. His interior illustrations, especially those in scratchboard, were iconic in their dark precision. His full-color cover paintings often made use of bright, glowing colors to create dramatically alien landscapes, artifacts and creatures. In addition to Dune, he did illustrations in 1967 for Anne McCaffrey's first Pern story, "Weyr Search." He thereby contributed to the genesis of two of the most popular science fiction series of the past 50 years.

In 1978, he returned to the world of Dune with new art for The Illustrated Dune, after which he worked only occasionally in SF but continued his prolific and award-winning work in children's book and wildlife art. But for 20 years, John Schoenherr played a seminal role in helping visualize the sense of wonder of SF, and in his passing we have lost another of our greatest artists.

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