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'Alien' artist H.R. Giger dead at 74

Swiss surrealist rewrote the rulebook on how to design a movie monster

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H.R. Giger, the Swiss surrealist artist best known for designing the iconic "xenomorph" creature in the Alien movie franchise, has died. Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports that the news comes from public broadcaster SRF, which said Giger died after sustaining injuries in a fall. He was 74.

Giger was born in Chur, Switzerland in 1940, later studying architecture and industrial design at Zurich's School of Applied Arts. He developed a freehand airbrush painting style that he used to great effect in his "biomechanical" landscape artworks, and was tapped to work on Alejandro Jodorowsky's ambitious, doomed remake of Dune in 1975, but Giger gained a new level of recognition following the publication of his book Necronomicon in 1977. It was that book that inspired Ridley Scott in the pre-production phases of Alien, and Scott hired Giger to produce concept art for the film.

The Alien creature was based on a Giger print named "Necronom IV", and marked a major departure from the clichéd green men often seen in movies until then. Giger's alien was androgynous, eyeless, and insectoid, playing off the artist's prior exploration of what he called biomechanical themes. Its design also had a clear sexual subtext, with its phallic head and disturbing reproductive system; the crab-like "facehugger" form wraps itself around a victim's head, impregnating it so the infant alien can burst out of the chest.

Giger continued to work on the Alien franchise, but his art found its way into corners of pop culture as diverse as the video game Dark Seed, the cover of Debbie Harry's solo album Koo Koo, and Korn singer Jonathan Davis' microphone stand.


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