Legendary Star Wars concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie has passed away

3 min read

It is unfortunate, but there are probably not that many people that would easily recognize Ralph McQuarrie’s name. However, if you’re a fan of cinema, then chances are you’ve not only seen his work, but also had his amazing visions of future and past influence your love for this art form. His designs will undoubtedly go down as some of the most iconic in history.

So it is with much regret that we have to bring word of Ralph’s passing at age 82 on Saturday, 3rd March 2012. The world of science fiction and fantasy art and design is undoubtedly poorer as a result of his absence.

Mcquarrie began his career in the 1960’s doing more technical design work for the likes of Boeing and CBS, but he soon branched out into film poster and concept art. His imaginative and evocative designs caught the eye of a young director named George Lucas, who was looking for the visual component of a little film project he was dreaming up. You may even have heard of it: Star Wars.

McQuarrie could be credited with being as much of an architect of the Star Wars universe as George Lucas, as his was the hand behind not only the overall look and feel of the universe but also such iconic designs as C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca and most importantly, Darth Vader; one of the most memorable characters in cinematic history. He also did a number of the incredible set and ship designs, and his work would be a significant factor in Lucas eventually being able to convince 20th Century Fox to take a gamble on his ambitious project.

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He also provided a number of concepts for some of Steven Spielberg’s best and most famous films, namely Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and E.T. He even did work on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and No Batteries Required, as well as winning the Oscar for
Visual Effects in 1985 for Coccoon.

His long time friend, George Lucas, issued this statement in tribute of McQuarrie:

“Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy.

When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.’

We will all be benefiting from his oeuvre for generations to come. Beyond that, I will always remember him as a kind and patient, and wonderfully talented, friend and collaborator.”

May the force be with you, Ralph McQuarrie, you will be missed.

Last Updated: March 5, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • So he was Geiger to Lucas’ Alien? Interesting. Might be worth investing in an art book of his. I’d be curious to see what his non-Star Wars stuff looks like. 

    • It’s actually pretty difficult to find his non-Star Wars stuff since that was clearly his defining work. My favourite piece of his is actually a pen and paper illustration he did for Raiders:


      I love pretty much all his work, but I’m just such a huge fan of traditional pen and paper drawings, as that was always my preferred medium back in my aspiring artist days.

      • Maybe his death will bring such a book about. A collection of his other work. No doubt there will be a Star Wars book, but I don’t want to give George my money.

      • Isn’t that picture from a bible?

        • Wtf?

          No you daft idjit… that was from Raiders of the Lost Ark…

  • Darryn_Bonthuys

    Oh man, sad day indeed. I still have this piece of archaic CD-Rom technology, called “Star Wars: Behind the Magic”, that was crawling with all his concept art.

    Truly fantastic stuff, and the imagination that this man had was incredible.

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