Ralph McQuarrie, famous for his concept art and paintings for the original Star Wars trilogy, died today, March 3, 2012. He was 82.
McQuarrie’s official web site posted the message of his passing today, but no cause of death was given, although he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. You can read the full message here below.
Along with his Star Wars art, McQuarrie also worked on the original Battlestar Galactica television series, as well as the movies E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Of all his amazing art and illustrations, it was his concept work on 1985’s Cocoon that won him the Academy Award for Visual Effects.
Every Star Wars fan is aware of the influence McQuarrie’s art had on making the franchise what it is, especially since he was the person who designed iconic characters like Darth Vader and Chewbacca. When Star Wars creator George Lucas was first shopping his space opera around Hollywood it was met with rejection, as studios could not envision what Lucas had in mind. That’s when the filmmaker hired McQuarrie to do concept art for his movie. According to McQuarrie’s site, when Lucas “made his pitch to Alan Ladd Jr. at 20th Century Fox he did so with a table full of Ralph’s art” and Fox is the studio that gave Lucas and Star Wars the green light.
I’ve been a Star Wars fanatic since day one, and as a child (in the days before the prequels), I had one of McQuarrie’s Empire Strikes Back images up on my wall and I would just stare at it all the time and imagine myself in that world. I also was in love with his cover for 1978’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which was the only Star Wars expanded universe novel at that time (before the EU was in existence or even imagined!).
Statement from Ralph McQuarrie’s official web site:
It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of Ralph McQuarrie.
People say you should never meet your heroes. Ralph was the exception to that rule. We were all fans of his amazing art long before we were blessed with his friendship. But once you got to know Ralph it was impossible not to become a fan of Ralph the man.
Ralph was a very special person for many more reasons than his undeniable brilliance with a brush. He was an especially kind, sensitive, deep, modest, funny and fascinating gentleman. And as fine a role model as any one could have wished for.
His influence on design will be felt forever. There’s no doubt in our hearts that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar, future cities will rise and someone, somewhere will say…
“that looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.”
RIP – Ralph McQuarrie
June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012