Original Steven Stroud illustration from them
This is a mixed media watercolor and pen & ink on illustration board by Steven Stroud. A sketchily composed illustration, it depicts an urban setting with high rise buildings dotted with laundry hanging on lines. There are figures on one of the building’s rooftops, all looking forlorn and lost in their own troubles.
This illustration appears as a double page bookplate on the title page of them by Joyce Carol Oates.
The Franklin Library’s Original Illustration Commissions
From its founding in 1973 until its closing in 2000 The Franklin Library produced public domain classic books as well as some limited first editions, releasing them in subscription series such as The Collected Stories of the World’s Greatest Writers. Often released in parallel series including leather bound and a non-leather bound (leatherette), the books were handsomely bound and included numerous original illustrations from contemporary artists.
American artist and illustrator Steven H. Stroud (b. 1947) was specially commissioned to create a series of interior illustrations for The Franklin Library’s 1979 publication of the novel them by Joyce Carol Oates.
The book is the third in the Wonderland Quartet that Oates inaugurated with A Garden of Earthly Delights. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1970.
Many years and many awards later, Oates surmised that them is one of the works she will most be remembered for, and would most want a new reader to select, though she added that “I could as easily have chosen a number of titles.”
Them explores the complex struggles of American life through three down-on-their-luck characters—Loretta, Maureen, and Jules—who are attempting to reach normality and the American dream through marriage and money.
The novel has been praised for its commentary on the difficulties faced by the American working class and depiction of lower-class tragedy through its descriptions of urban life and the interweaving of colloquial language with prose.
About the artist: Steven H. Stroud
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Steven Stroud served four years in the U.S. Navy as a photographer and graphic artist before embarking on a 25-year career as an illustrator. His paintings have appeared on the covers of books by Isaac Asimov, Clive Cussler, and Stephen King. He has done special editions of works by Pearl Buck, John Cheever, William Faulkner, Joseph Heller, Joyce Carol Oates, and William Styron.
His work is in the collections of The Department of Defense, Hyatt Hotels, Omega Engineering, UPS and the Florence Griswold Museum. Stroud has been a guest lecturer and critic at all levels of education. He is a past president of the Society of Illustrators and his work is featured in The Illustrator in America by Walter Reed.
Several years ago, Stroud turned his attention full time to his first love, landscape painting. He is currently represented by galleries in Massachusetts and Vermont and has had a number of highly successful group and one-man shows.