By Matthew McKibben | May 13, 2014
Swiss artist H.R. Giger, best known for his design of the “xenomorph” in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien, has died at age 74 from injuries suffered in a fall at his Gruyeres, Switzerland museum. Giger’s work, often depicting human and machine hybrids, disturbingly fused together, was highly influential on a generation of movie directors, musicians, and visual artists.
Some of his better known works include his painting of a human skull encased in a machine first appeared on the cover of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery and his design for Debbie Harry’s solo album, Koo Koo.
But he is, of course, best known for his work as a Hollywood set designer, contributing to such films as Species, Poltergeist II, Dune, and most famously Alien, for which he received the 1979 Academy Award for special effects.
Alien is a masterpiece because of the amazing work of its actors (Sigourney Weaver, in particular), the music, effects, and Ridley Scott’s direction, but it is Giger’s work on the alien itself that keeps viewers up at night. That beast is the most horrifying thing Hollywood has ever produced. With so many Hollywood monsters, there’s always the notion that one could plead for your life or reason with it somehow. Not with the xenomorph. That sucker is pure biological menace and its design is a sight to behold, especially in the first movie.
The H.R. Giger Museum, which opened in 1998 houses many of Giger’s paintings, but also works of artists like Salvador Dali.