Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who contributed design work to one of the most iconic creatures in cinema history for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Alien, has died at the age of 74.
Giger is best known for his biomechanical horror work, inspired, he said, by night terrors. Born in Switzerland in 1940, his father initially encouraged him to become a pharmacist, worrying that art was a “breadless profession.” But Giger was dedicated to design, and moved to Zurich in 1962 to study architecture and industrial design, where he developed his technique. After a period working as an interior designer, he switched to art full time, working on small ink drawings before moving to oil paintings and then to airbrushed work which owes a debt to Lovecraft and Giger’s friendship with Salvador Dali. Early books of his paintings bear the Lovecraft influence out, named for the Necronomicon.
But it was Necronom IV that would lead to his most famous design – that, and a fateful meeting with Alien co-writer Dan O’Bannon, who prior to his work with Ridley Scott had been hired to help Alejandro Jodorowsky on his adaptation of Dune. While that never came to pass, O’Bannon was struck by Giger’s design plans for Dune, and recommended him to Scott for Alien. Despite Fox executives’ worries that his work would be too disturbing for audiences, Scott was sold and hired Carlo Rambaldi to bring Giger’s vision to life. The result scored the effects team an Oscar and is forever etched on to our minds.
In addition to that memorable collaboration, Giger has gone on to become one of the most influential artists in the world. He’s also directed several films, including Swiss Made, Tagtarum, and Giger’s Necronomicon. His fingerprints can be found on the likes of Species and Poltergeist II: The Other Side. He’s also contributed designs for a wealth of albums and other projects.
He died on Monday afternoon in hospital from injuries sustained in a fall. Our thoughts are with his wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger, who runs the museum dedicated to his work.