Surrealist painter Hans Ruedi Giger, whose designs inspired the creature in Alien and whose otherworldly and often grotesque art graced album covers for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Debbie Harry and Danzig, died Monday, following hospitalization for falling down the stairs in his Zurich home. He was 74.
Look back at H.R. Giger’s greatest cover art, from Debbie Harry to Danzig
Giger described his artwork as “biomechanical,” BBC reports, and earned renown for his monochromatic dystopian landscapes and perverse monsters. Many paintings featured genitalia in the art, while others found machines fused to organic beings.
“My paintings seem to make the strongest impression on people who are, well, who are crazy,” Giger said in a 1979 interview, according to the Associated Press. “If they like my work they are creative … or they are crazy.”
His 1976 lithograph, Necronom IV, was the basis for the Xenomorph creature that debuted in Ridley Scott’s 1979 space horror Alien and appeared in its many sequels. He won the Academy Award for Best Achievement for Visual Effects for Alien in 1980 and contributed designs to 1986’s Poltergeist II: The Other Side, 1992’s Alien 3, 1995’s Species and 2012’s Prometheus, among other films. He was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013.
His eerie artwork also graced album covers by artists ranging from pop artists to death-metal bands. Prog trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery featured complex packaging that allowed fans to open up its industrial, skull-like visage to see a woman’s face. He also designed the cover of Debbie Harry’s 1981 album Koo Koo, using her face in the art. His paintings grace the covers of death metal trailblazers Celtic Frost’s 1985 album To Mega Therion, Danzig’s 1992 LP Danzig III: How the Gods Kill, melodic death metal group Carcass’ 1993 record Heartwork, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1998 live album Then and Now, and the two most recent albums by Triptykon, a death-metal band formed by Celtic Frost’s Tom Fischer.
Punk group the Dead Kennedys included a poster of Giger’s Landscape #XX, also known as Penis Landscape as it depicted rows of erect phalluses in coitus, in the packaging of their 1985 album Frankenchrist, and were subsequently put on trial for obscenity. When a 14-year-old girl bought the album for her 11-year-old brother, her parents filed a complaint with the California attorney general. The Dead Kennedys had included a sticker on their album art bearing a warning about the poster: “Some people may find [it] shocking, repulsive or offensive – life can sometimes be that way.” The group later removed the poster and included a voucher fans could mail in for it. The obscenity case ended in a mistrial.
Additionally, Korn frontman Jonathan Davis commissioned Giger to design him a microphone stand, which he still uses, and Blondie guitarist Chris Stein owns a guitar that incorporated Giger’s artwork into its design.
Giger opened his own museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland, in 1998, to display his paintings and sculptures. It also includes art by the likes of Salvador Dalí and Ernst Fuchs.