George Lucas typically gets credit for visualizing the Star Wars universe, and in turn creating the image of popular science fiction that is so pervasive today. But in truth, much of what became Star Wars was truly visualized by conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie, whose pre-production paintings defined the look of many major characters in Star Wars, and specified the general look of the film’s many worlds. McQuarrie also contributed to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cocoon (for which he won an Oscar), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more.

Sadly, Ralph McQuarrie passed away yesterday at the age of 82. George Lucas wrote a eulogy for his friend and co-conspirator in Star Wars, which you can read after the break.

In a statement printed on StarWars.com, George Lucas said,

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.

The same link at StarWars.com features a gallery of McQuarrie’s paintings, and if you don’t have one of the many books that reproduces his work, I encourage you to flip through that collection of images. McQuarrie’s work is stunning.

 

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