Sad news comes at the end of the weekend as a man who has influenced film for decades and is responsible for some of the most iconic cinematic science fiction creations of all-time has passed away. Geeks of Doom spread the news that concept designer Ralph McQuarrie, the man behind the breathtaking art that served as the inspiration for the look and style of the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed away at age 82. No cause of death is given, but McQuarrie had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for some time. In his wake, McQuarrie leaves a legacy of art behind that has and will influence storytelling for years to come.
Here’s the statement released from McQuarrie’s official website:
"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.'”
Characters like Darth Vader and Chewbacca serve as some of the best examples of how McQuarrie’s work became a mainstay in George Lucas’ sci-fi saga. Much of his concept art is the reason that Fox decided to actually let Lucas make the film and the rest is history. Lucas himself eulogized McQuarrie on the official Star Wars website. Here’s what he had to say:
I am deeply saddened by the passing of such a visionary artist and such a humble man. 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.’
Beyond the movies, his artwork has inspired at least two generations of younger artists—all of whom learned through Ralph that movies are designed. Like me, they were thrilled by his keen eye and creative imagination, which always brought concepts to their most ideal plateau. In many ways, he was a generous father to a conceptual art revolution that was born of his artwork, and which seized the imaginations of thousands and propelled them into the film industry. In that way, 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.
Aside from his work on Star Wars, McQuarrie also worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series. However, it was his work on the film Cocoon that landed him an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. For a whole gallery of his work on Star Wars, head to the official website that has a slideshow of some of his finest illustrations (like the artwork below). McQuarrie is an integral part of cinema’s history and his mark on film, television and pop culture will last forever. Rest in peace.