Lawrence Sterne Stevens
(American, 1886-1960)

Stevens was famous in the science fiction field for the work he did under the pseudonym Lawrence. Like his contemporary Joseph Clement Coll, Stevens received his art education as a newspaper illustrator. This was in a period before photos could be easily printed on newsprint, and illustrators were trained to produce quick and accurate sketches of important events with near photographic accuracy, using line work and stipple, that would reproduce by standard printing procedures of the time. In 1914, Lawrence was sent by one of the major newspapers to cover the war in Europe. Lawrence settled in England, married and started a family, returning to the United States shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Lawrence was already in his late fifties when he started working for Popular Publications. He started doing interior illustrations for western, detective, and romance pulps and used the same photographic style that he used for newspaper illustration. The crisp, detailed line work was perfectly suited for inexpensive pulp paper. Lawrence was incredibly fast compared to most other professional artists; he could complete a full page, detailed, black-and-white illustration in only a few hours. He was the perfect fill-in artist for other artists who might fall behind on their deadlines or not finish an illustration.

 

Virgil Finlay -- consistently a fan favorite-- had been drafted in late 1942, and his interiors for Famous Fantastic Mysteries were important to the success of the magazine. When he went into the service, other artists were needed to fill his shoes. Stevens had registered for the draft, but at the age of fifty-six he did not enlist, and hence was able to fill in for Finlay. Although Stevens' style was clearly different from Finlay's, his work had a similar photographic detail, and he was considered "the most successful of Finlay's mimics" (Valdeboncoeur, Jr. 1998). When Finlay, returned to illustrating after the war, Stevens was so firmly entrenched as an artist for the Popular science fiction magazines that the two men shared art assignments for the rest of the life of the magazine.

It is though that Stevens retired in the early 1950s when he moved to Connecticut. One of the finest interior artists ever to work in the science fiction field, he died unnoticed by the science fiction community in January 1960.

Frank, Jane. A Biographical Dictionary: Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century. Published by McFarland & Company, Inc.,

Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 2009. p. 436.