H.R. Giger, Surrealist artist, ‘Alien’ designer, dead at 74

May 13, 2014 | 5:57 p.m.
hr giger photo annie bertra1 H.R. Giger, Surrealist artist, Alien designer, dead at 74

Swiss designer and Academy Award winner H.R. Giger passed away this week at the age of 74. (Annie Bertram)

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This painting, "Necronom IV" (1976), convinced director Ridley Scott to hire Swiss designer H.R.Giger to create the titular monster in "Alien." (H.R. Giger)

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H.R. Giger poses with two of his works at the art museum in Chur, Switzerland. (Arno Balzarini / AP Photo/Keystone)

apphoto switzerland obit giger H.R. Giger, Surrealist artist, Alien designer, dead at 74

H.R. Giger poses with model Anneka Vasta at the 1980 opening of an exhibition in New York. (Bocklett/AP Photo)

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H.R. Giger photographed at the Galerie Morpheus in Beverly Hills. Giger is seated on a chair that he designed. Behind him are design drawings he did for the 1995 film "Species." (Robin Perine)

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H.R. Giger's original artwork featured in the movie "Jodorowsky's Dune," which documents Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky's unsuccessful attempt to adapt and film Frank Herbert's 1965 science fiction novel "Dune" in the mid-1970s. (H.R. Giger / Sony Pictures Classics)

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Original artwork by H.R. Giger featured the movie "Jodorowsky's Dune." (H.R. Giger / Sony Pictures Classics)

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H.R. Giger displaying his original sketches from the movie "Jodorowsky's Dune." (H.R. Giger / Sony Pictures Classics)

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Original artwork artwork by H.R. Giger featured in the movie "Jodorowsky's Dune." (H.R. Giger / Sony Pictures Classics)

H.R. Giger, the legendary Swiss surrealist artist whose designs for Ridley Scott’s “Alien” changed the cinematic science fiction landscape, has died at age 74.

Giger won an Oscar for 1979′s “Alien,” and his work appeared in the sequel “Alien 3″ as well as the 1995 movie “Species.” In addition to his sculptures, he painted and designed furniture, and amassed a macabre collection of unusual artifacts that included eight human skeletons.

In a 1998 interview with Times staff writer Kathleen Craughwell, the then-58-year-old said that his otherworldly art was influenced by the cruelty to animals he witnessed as a child in his native country: “I could see how [the farmers] knock down a cow with the big hammer. One was holding her and the other was hammering this cow. It was terrible. And they’d cry, and this noise, I never will forget.”

In the same interview, he recalled completing his military service and studying architecture and interior and industrial design in Zurich before embarking on his career as an artist, despite the disapproval of his father. “‘Where will you get your bread from?’ he would say. ‘Art is useless!’ But when I was 27, I sold my first sculpture piece for 1,500 francs — that was a lot of money — and my father was very proud and he said, ‘Now you have to do this!’” Giger said. (Read the entire interview here.)

It was his book “Necronomicon” that brought him to the attention of Scott, who would immortalize his sleek, predatory Xenomorph creations on screen (the American Film Institute ranked the creature as the 14th most memorable villain in a 2003 survey). Specifically, he asked Giger to elaborate on the imagery in a 1976 painting titled “Necronom IV,” which depicts a biomechanical creature with an elongated skull and an exoskeleton.

More recently, the new documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” showcased some of Giger’s artistic contributions that never made it to the big screen. Giger had sought to collaborate with Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky on his attempted adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel “Dune” in the mid-1970s, but the project never came to fruition.

The artist reportedly died from injuries sustained in a fall.

Read more about the Giger’s legacy here.

– Gina McIntyre

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