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Giger, H R

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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Working name of Swiss artist and theatre and film designer – but not illustrator – Hans Rudolf Giger (1940-2014). After formal training and some exhibitions of his paintings, he began displaying his distinctive style in the early 1970s. Strikingly grotesque, morbid, and necrophiliac, it draws heavily on the surrealist and decadent traditions, with acknowledged influences including Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901), Hieronymus Bosch (1460-1516), Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and Antonio Gaudí (1852-1926); there are also clear resemblances to the paintings of Max Ernst (1891-1976). It is perhaps from Ernst and Gaudí that he first took his main trademark, the combination of organic with Machine-like forms, which has been termed "biomechanoid". His work was showcased in a documentary film for television, Passagen (1972), and his first two books, A Rh+ (1971) and H.R. Giger (1976); but it was his third book, H.R. Giger's Necronomicon (1977; trans 1978; exp 1991) – the title pays appropriate homage to another influence on his work, H P Lovecraft – which drew the attention of audiences in America and Great Britain.

Among those readers were the producers of the film Alien (1979), who invited Giger to help with their Alien designs. (They had also heard of his weird 1975 designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky's unmade version of Dune.) The spectacular results revolutionized the look of sf Cinema to a degree it would be difficult to overstate; it has since been much imitated in many films, including Saturn 3 (1980), The Thing (1982), Lifeforce (1985) and even Videodrome (1982), though it is doubtful whether Giger profited from this. The idea that alien Machines might not look like ours – along with the very idea of the organic machine – was inventive, and in sf-cinema terms an important step away from anthropomorphism (though some might argue that the incorporation into Giger's aliens and their artefacts of penis and vagina shapes is as anthropomorphic as you can get).

Since director Ridley Scott cannily offered viewers mostly fleeting images of Giger's alien, many viewers developed a keen interest in getting a better look at his creations, which was addressed by a popular book of his working drawings that further bolstered his reputation, H.R. Giger's Alien (1979; rev vt Giger's Alien Film Design 1989). Giger's art was also featured in magazine covers for the German Heyne Science Fiction Magazin, Omni, and Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine. He received a second film assignment, to create designs for the film Poltergeist II (1986), but he was very unhappy with the results. He therefore involved himself in little further film work, although he did contribute to Species (1995). Otherwise, he generally received additional film credits for the reuse of his Alien designs in numerous sequels and offshoots, a late example being Scott's Prometheus (2012).

Using ink and acrylics, Giger continued to produce airbrushed paintings in the style that made him famous, offering death/sex/machine imagery of staggering banality for some, shocking surrealism for others, and publishing many collections of his works; the checklist below lists only selected book-format works and excludes numerous portfolios. His seminal influence on sf art now seems to have been almost accidental, although the field honoured his contributions with a 2005 Spectrum Grandmaster Award and he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2013. [PN/GW]

Hans Rudolf Giger

born Chur, Switzerland: 5 February 1940

died Switzerland: 12 May 2014

works (selected)



  • H R Giger's Necronomicon (Basel, Switzerland: Sphinx-Verlag, 1977) [graph: many later editions: Necronomicon: illus/pb/H R Giger]
  • H R Giger's Necronomicon 2 (Zurich, Switzerland: Edition Crocodile, 1985) [graph: many later editions: Necronomicon: illus/pb/H R Giger]
    • H R Giger's Necronomicon 2 (Beverly Hills, California: Morpheus International, 1992) [graph: trans of the above: Necronomicon: illus/pb/H R Giger]
    • H R Giger's Necronomicon 1 + 2 (Zurich, Switzerland: Edition Crocodile, 1985) [omni of the above two: graph: Necronomicon: illus/hb/H R Giger]

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