Mar 3 2012 9:41pm

Ralph McQuarrie, 1929–2012

We are sad to report that concept art legend Ralph McQuarrie passed away today. McQuarrie was the designer of the original Star Wars movies, Battlestar Gallactica, ET, Star Trek and many other science fiction classics. 

Arguably his most recognizable creation was the design for Darth Vader, (back when the movie was still called Adventures of Luke Starkiller.)

It is impossible to overstate the effect he has had on a generation of movie goers and how we see the future. Our thoughts are with the McQuarrie family and those closest to him. 


Irene Gallo
2. Irene
Just about everyone I know in my age bracket (aka, around 7 when New Hope came out) is an sf artists because of watching Star Wars.
randy gallegos
3. gallegosart
Indeed, and I was only 4 when I saw SW, yet it may be my earliest memory. It was absolutely the visuals that put me on the path I'm still on.

Apart from his concept work, his Leighton homage on the cover of Asimov's short story collection "Robot Dreams" is one of my favorite robot paintings, ever.
Iain Coleman
4. Iain_Coleman
What terribly sad news. McQuarrie was a wonderful artist, and arguably more responsible for the success of Star Wars, and all that followed it, than George Lucas.
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
RIP; I still was finding old pieces of art by him & going "dang!" as recently as last week.
6. Axehell
The first book I ever saved up for and bought myself was the Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook, the blue one. Blew my little mind. Thank you Ralph, and thank you to all the other visionaries out there.
7. ragoo
Going to dig out my Star Wars Sketchbook and read with a renewed appreciation for the gift you gave to me so many others. Thank you, sir.
8. James Davis Nicoll
As I recall, he did the cover art for the Chaosium Ringworld RPG back in 1984.
9. ouri
Fascinating, given his age group how he foresaw the future concepts of art form of the future.....restate that, he has foot printed for us the centuries to come on how we look at futuristic art. We owe a lot to this, and may the force be with you!
10. Luke Starkiller
"Fascinating, given his age group how he foresaw the future concepts of art form of the future....."

LOL. I know you mean well, but think about what you say.

He was 47 when the original STAR WARS came out.

Believe it or not, people in 1977 were actually aware there was an Outer Space.
Michael Burke
11. Ludon
And he was aware of space long before Star Wars. He did illustrations of elements of the Apollo Moon missions for TV and print media in the late 60s.
12. Paul Chadwick
From every account I heard, a gentle, modest man who felt terribly lucky to have been tapped to help design the film.

I also heard that the project was pushed over the top by the fine paintings, which suggested just how wonderful the film could be. After the chilly, box-office flop THX 1138, another science fiction film from George Lucas was not an easy sell.

It's amazing how close the final film looks to the designs in his paintings.
13. Lyric
How beautiful, though, to be able to leave such a legacy. Looking at those images brought back so many good memories. RIP, Mr. McQuarrie.
14. Anthony Francisco
He is a great inspiration. I wish I got to meet him, those first star wars books was my first look into concept art.
15. AlBrown
A man of great talent with great imagination. His vision gave Star Wars a look different than anything we had ever seen before, and was an important part of the success of the films.
16. Theop
We will always remember the art of Ralph McQuarrie, and I write this from the Netherlands, Europe. I was enthralled by his art in the early 1980's.

His art refers to American frontier and western imagery, think of the barren, Nevada-like desert landscapes of Tatooine. It combines this rural influence with the rigid aesthetics of world war II, as witnessed in the war machines and uniforms of the Empire. Here we find oblique references to the uniforms of the Wehrmacht, and the dull gray metallic appearances of the destroyers and the Death Star evoke images of the Kriegsmarine giant battleships Bismark and Tirpitz).

Just as American artist Edward Hopper depicts the scenery of a beautiful America through a haunting play of light, shadow and melancholy, Hopper's painting Nighthawks (1942) serving as an everlasting reference, McQuarrie projects a similar vision transcending naturalism of that America, but this time on the canvas of a galaxy far, far away.

McQuarrie's art ultimately belongs to the grand American tradition of modern art. Art of other underrated artists like Syd Mead and Frank Frazetta belonging to that canon.

The catalogue of American ultra-symbolism has yet to be written.

Best regards,

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
17. Lisamarie
That is sad - he has definitely been a huge influence. Personally, I always think of the illustration of C-3PO and R2D2 he did whenever I think of the look and feel of Star Wars.

One of our friends used to date a guy that knew him - she actually met him, and got an autographed print of the Bible illustration from Indiana Jones depicting the Ark of the Covenant smiting people. She ended up gifting this to us, and we have it hanging in our house (although I often feel obligated to explain exactly why we have an illustration of God smiting people hanging in our home! We ARE religious and do have other religious things decorating our home but I don't want people to think that is part of our religious decorating!)
18. FourEyedGeek
ouri: His drawings of C3-PO look very similar to Metropolis, which was released as a movie in 1927, long before Ralph McQuarrie was born. This world has produced many people with great artistic talent. Also science fiction novels have been around for a long time which no doubt inspired Mr McQuarrie.

I think these images are fantastic, I love them. I hadn't seen them till now. I might look for some prints of these.
19. Ben William Lines
What an amazing artist and it sad to see him go. Let's us remember for the work he produced and for us to admire as artists. Ralph has set an example of great work for us to ponder and learn for ourselves in what makes a good design. I love his work on Star Wars, an interesting glimps at one of science-fictions first capture of the future; if that makes sense. What a guy and I think I will be definitely researching his work to improve my skills as an artist. The art world will sadly miss him, but his influence will carry on.
20. Chris Fedor
So true, I still see the art and concept of Motherships back to Ralph McQuarrie, the work that went into creating the original models for battle star Galactica was awesome still today.
21. Stephen Jay Schwartz
His work was outstanding. He will be missed.

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