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H. R. Giger

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H. R. Giger
Giger in 2012
Hans Ruedi Giger

(1940-02-05)5 February 1940
Chur, Graubünden, Switzerland
Died12 May 2014(2014-05-12) (aged 74)
Zürich, Switzerland
Occupation(s)Painter, sculptor, set designer, film director
StyleScience fiction, fantasy, macabre
Mia Bonzanigo
(m. 1979; div. 1981)
Carmen Maria Scheifele
(m. 2006)
PartnerLi Tobler (1966–1975)

Hans Ruedi Giger (/ˈɡɡər/ GHEE-gər; German: [ˈɡiːɡər]; 5 February 1940 – 12 May 2014) was a Swiss artist best known for his airbrushed images that blended human physiques with machines, an art style known as "biomechanical". Giger later abandoned airbrush for pastels, markers and ink. He was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for the visual design of Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror film Alien, and was responsible for creating the titular Alien itself.[1] His work is on permanent display at the H.R. Giger Museum in Gruyères, Switzerland. His style has been adapted to many forms of media, including album covers, furniture, tattoos and video games.

Early life[edit]

Giger was born in 1940 in Chur, the capital city of Graubünden, the largest and easternmost Swiss canton. His father, a pharmacist, viewed art as a "breadless profession" and strongly encouraged him to enter pharmacy. He moved to Zürich in 1962 where he studied architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts until 1970.[2]


Birth Machine sculpture in Gruyères

Giger's first success occurred when H. H. Kunz, co-owner of Switzerland's first poster publishing company, printed and distributed Giger's first posters, beginning in 1969.[3]

Giger's style and thematic execution were influential. He was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for their design work on the film Alien.[4][5] His design for the Alien was inspired by his painting Necronom IV and earned him the Oscar in 1980. His books of paintings, particularly Necronomicon and Necronomicon II (1985) and the frequent appearance of his art in Omni magazine contributed to his rise to international prominence.[2] Giger was admitted to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013.[6][7] He is also well known for artwork on several music recording albums including Danzig III: How The Gods Kill by Danzig, Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Attahk by Magma, Heartwork by Carcass, To Mega Therion by Celtic Frost, Eparistera Daimones and Melana Chasmata by Triptykon, Deborah Harry's KooKoo, Atomic Playboys by Steve Stevens, and Frankenchrist by the Dead Kennedys.

In 1998, Giger acquired the Saint-Germain Castle in Gruyères, Switzerland, which now houses the H.R. Giger Museum, a permanent repository of his work.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Giger had a relationship with Swiss actress Li Tobler until she died by suicide in 1975.[9] Tobler's image appears in many of his paintings. He married Mia Bonzanigo in 1979; they divorced a year and a half later.

Giger lived and worked in Zürich with his second wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger, who is the director of the H.R. Giger Museum.[10]

On 12 May 2014, Giger died in a Zürich hospital after suffering injuries from a fall.[11][12][13][14]


Giger started with small ink drawings before progressing to oil paintings. For most of his career, he worked predominantly in airbrush, creating monochromatic canvasses depicting surreal, nightmarish dreamscapes. He also worked with pastels, markers and ink.[2]

Giger's most distinctive stylistic innovation was that of a representation of human bodies and machines in cold, interconnected relationships, which he described as "biomechanical". His main influences were painters Dado,[15] Ernst Fuchs, and Salvador Dalí. He was introduced to Dali by painter Robert Venosa. Giger was also influenced by Polish sculptor Stanislaw Szukalski, and by painters Austin Osman Spare and Mati Klarwein,[16] and was a personal friend of Timothy Leary. He studied interior and industrial design at the School of Commercial Art in Zurich from 1962 to 1965, and made his first paintings as art therapy.[2]

Other works[edit]

Entrance to Giger Bar in Chur
Ibanez H. R. Giger signature bass and guitars

Giger directed a number of films, including Swiss Made (1968), Tagtraum (1973), Giger's Necronomicon (1975) and Giger's Alien (1979).

Giger created furniture designs, particularly the Harkonnen Capo Chair for a film of the novel Dune that was to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Many years later, David Lynch directed the film, using only rough concepts by Giger. Giger had wished to work with Lynch,[17] as he stated in one of his books that Lynch's film Eraserhead was closer than even Giger's own films to realizing his vision.[2]

Giger also applied his biomechanical style to interior design. One "Giger Bar" appeared in Tokyo, but the realization of his designs was a great disappointment to him, since the Japanese organization behind the venture did not wait for his final designs, and instead used Giger's rough preliminary sketches. For that reason Giger disowned the Tokyo bar.[18] The two Giger Bars in his native Switzerland, in Gruyères and Chur, were built under Giger's close supervision and they accurately reflect his original concepts. At The Limelight in Manhattan, Giger's artwork was licensed to decorate the VIP room, the uppermost chapel of the landmarked church, but it was never intended to be a permanent installation and bore no similarity to the bars in Switzerland. The arrangement was terminated after two years when the Limelight closed.[19]

Giger's art has greatly influenced tattooists and fetishists worldwide. Under a licensing deal Ibanez guitars released an H. R. Giger signature series: the Ibanez ICHRG2, an Ibanez Iceman, features "NY City VI", the Ibanez RGTHRG1 has "NY City XI" printed on it, the S Series SHRG1Z has a metal-coated engraving of "Biomechanical Matrix" on it, and a 4-string SRX bass, SRXHRG1, has "N.Y. City X" on it.[2]

Giger is often referred to in popular culture, especially in science fiction and cyberpunk. William Gibson (who wrote an early script for Alien 3) seems particularly fascinated: A minor character in Virtual Light, Lowell, is described as having New York XXIV tattooed across his back, and in Idoru a secondary character, Yamazaki, describes the buildings of nanotech Japan as Giger-esque.[citation needed]


  • Alien (designed, among other things, the Alien creature, "The Derelict" and the "Space Jockey")[20]
  • Aliens (credited for the creation of the creature only)
  • Alien 3 (designed the dog-like Alien bodyshape, plus a number of unused concepts, many mentioned on the special features disc of Alien 3, despite not being credited in the theatrical version)
  • Alien Resurrection (credited for the creation of the creature only)
  • Alien vs. Predator (credited for the creation of the creature only)
  • Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (credited for the creation of the creature only)
  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side
  • Killer Condom (creative consultant, set design)[21][22]
  • Species (designed Sil, and the Ghost Train in a dream sequence)
  • Species II (the film includes Eve, based on creature Sil from the first Species film)
  • Future-Kill (designed artwork for the movie poster)
  • Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (creature designs)[23]
  • Prometheus (The 2012 film includes "The Derelict" spacecraft and the "Space Jockey" designs from the first Alien film, as well as a "Temple" design from the failed Jodorowsky Dune project and original extraterrestrial murals created exclusively for Prometheus, based in conceptual art from Alien. Unlike Alien Resurrection, the Prometheus film credited H. R. Giger with the original designs.)[24]
  • Alien: Covenant (the 2017 film includes the Alien creature, "The Derelict" spacecraft and the "Space Jockey" designs from the first Alien film)

Work for recording artists[edit]

Jonathan Davis with his microphone stand

Interior decoration[edit]

Video games[edit]


Street name sign in Chur, Switzerland

Giger was awarded the Inkpot Award in 1979.[28]

In addition to his awards, Giger was recognized by a variety of festivals and institutions. On the one year anniversary of his death, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City staged the series The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger in May 2015.[29]

Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World, a biographical documentary by Belinda Sallin, debuted 27 September 2014 in Zurich, Switzerland.[30][31]

In July 2018, the asteroid 109712 Giger was named in his memory.[32]


  1. ^ Paul Scanlon; Michael Gross (1979). The Book of Alien. WH Allen & Co.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hans Ruedi Giger, HR Giger ARh+, translated by Karen Williams, Taschen, 1993. ISBN 978-3-8228-9642-6.
  3. ^ "HR Giger Museum". www.hrgigermuseum.com. Archived from the original on 27 July 2021. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  4. ^ "Out of this world: {...} Welcome to the Giger Bar" Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Samantha Warwick. The Guardian. 29 April 2006. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  5. ^ "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners" Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Oscars.org.
  6. ^ "H. R. Giger" Archived 19 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Science Fiction Awards Database (sfadb.com). Mark R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame: EMP welcomes five major players" Archived 18 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine. [June 2013].
    "H.R. Giger: The man behind the monster, Alien" Archived 2 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine. EMP Museum (empmuseum.org). Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  8. ^ Gary Singh, "Giger Harvest", Silicon Alleys, Metro Silicon Valley, 8–14 July 2009, p. 8.
  9. ^ Gilbey, Ryan (13 May 2014). "HR Giger obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 April 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  10. ^ "HR Giger Abbreviated Biography" Archived 27 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine, 12 December 2012.
  11. ^ Martin, Douglas (14 May 2014). "H. R. Giger, Swiss Artist, Dies at 74; His Vision Gave Life to 'Alien' Creature". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 January 2022. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  12. ^ Staff (13 May 2014). "'Alien' creator H.R. Giger is dead". swissinfo. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  13. ^ Jordans, Frank (13 May 2014). "'Alien' artist H.R. Giger dies at 74". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 13 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  14. ^ Zweifel, Philippe (13 May 2014). "Der "Alien"-Vater ist tot". Tages-Anzeiger. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "R.F. Paul. "Baphomet's Lament: An Interview with H.R. Giger". Esoterra: The Journal of Extreme Culture 9 (fall/winter 2000)
  17. ^ Sheldon Teitelbaum, "Giger's Necronomicon Imagery Comes Alive on the Screen" Archived 1 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Cinefantastique vol. 18 no. 4, May 1988, p. 13 (PDF). Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  18. ^ Burton, Bonnie. "Cheers to the aliens: Sci-Fi Hotel, Giger Bar coming to US?". CNET. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  19. ^ Frank X. Owen, Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture, New York: St. Martin's, 2003, p. 269.
  20. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: 'H.R. Giger's World' Film Poster". Inked. 4 February 2015. Archived from the original on 10 April 2021. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  21. ^ "Killer Condom". Stockholm Film Festival. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  22. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence. "Film Review: Safe Sex It Is Not". New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  23. ^ "Movie Projects with H.R.Giger". Littlegiger.com. 31 August 1997. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  24. ^ "Interview: Ridley Scott Talks Prometheus, Giger, Beginning of Man and Original Alien". Filmophilia. 17 December 2011. Archived from the original on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  25. ^ HR Giger. Taschen. 2002. p. 114. ISBN 3-8228-1723-6.
  26. ^ "H.R. Giger Signature Guitar Series". Archived from the original on 5 June 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  27. ^ Stuart, Keith (13 May 2014). "HR Giger: artist whose biomechanical art had vast influence on game design". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  28. ^ "Inkpot Award". Comic-Con International: San Diego. 6 December 2012. Archived from the original on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  29. ^ Chu, Christine (19 May 2015). "HR Giger Retrospective Comes to the Museum of Arts and Design One Year After His Death". Artnet. Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  30. ^ "Belinda Sallin on capturing the life and art of H.R. Giger – Blastr – Ernie Estrella, May 15, 2015". Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  31. ^ Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World (2014) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  32. ^ Mills, George (12 September 2018). "From anarchy to onion heads: The Local's A–Z guide to essential Swiss culture". The Local Switzerland. The Local. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 9 August 2020.

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