H. R. Giger

H. R. Giger

Giger in 2012
Born Hans Rudolf Giger
(1940-02-05)5 February 1940
Chur, Graubünden, Switzerland
Died 12 May 2014(2014-05-12) (aged 74)
Zürich, Switzerland
Cause of death Falling
Nationality Swiss
Occupation Painter, sculptor, set designer, film director
Style Science fiction, fantasy, occult, macabre
Spouse(s) Mia Bonzanigo (1979–81; divorced)
Carmen Maria Scheifele (2006–14; his death)
Partner(s) Li Tobler (1966–75)
Website hrgiger.com

Hans Rudolf "Ruedi" Giger (/ˈɡɡər/ GHEE-gur; German: [ˈɡiːɡər]; 5 February 1940 – 12 May 2014) was a Swiss surrealist painter, whose style was adapted for many forms of media, including record-albums, furniture and tattoo-art.

The Zurich-based artist was best known for airbrush images of humans and machines linked together in a cold 'biomechanical' relationship. Later he abandoned airbrush work for pastels, markers or ink. He was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for design work on the film Alien. In Switzerland there are two theme-bars that reflect his interior designs, and his work is on permanent display at the H.R. Giger Museum at Gruyères.

Early life

Giger was born in 1940 in Chur, 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, Giger recalled. He moved to Zürich in 1962, where he studied Architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts until 1970.[1]


Giger's first success was when H. H. Kunz, co-owner of Switzerland's first poster publishing company, printed and distributed Giger's first posters, beginning in 1969.[2]

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.[3][4] His design for the Alien was inspired by his painting Necronom IV and earned him an Oscar in 1980. His books of paintings, particularly Necronomicon and Necronomicon II (1985) and the frequent appearance of his art in Omni magazine continued his rise to international prominence.[1] Giger was admitted to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013.[5][6] He is also well known for artwork on several music recording albums including ELP's Brain Salad Surgery and Deborah Harry's KooKoo.

In 1998 Giger acquired the Château St. Germain in Gruyères, Switzerland, and it now houses the H.R. Giger Museum, a permanent repository of his work.[7]

Personal life

Giger had a relationship with Swiss actress Li Tobler until she committed suicide in 1975.[8] Li's image appears in many of his paintings. He married Mia Bonzanigo in 1979; they divorced a year and a half later.

The artist lived and worked in Zürich with his second wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger, who is the Director of the H.R. Giger Museum.[9]


On 12 May 2014, Giger died in a hospital in Zürich after having suffered injuries in a fall.[10][11][12][13]


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.[14]

Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World, a biographical documentary by Belinda Sallin, debuted 27 September 2014 in Zurich, Switzerland.[15][16]


Birth Machine sculpture in Gruyères

Giger started with small ink drawings before progressing to oil paintings. For most of his career, Giger had worked predominantly in airbrush, creating monochromatic canvasses depicting surreal, nightmarish dreamscapes. However, he then largely abandoned large airbrush works in favor of works with pastels, markers or ink.[1]

Giger's most distinctive stylistic innovation was that of a representation of human bodies and machines in a cold, interconnected relationship, he described as "biomechanical". His main influences were painters Dado,[17] Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. He met Salvador Dalí, to whom he was introduced by painter Robert Venosa. Giger was also influenced by the work of the sculptor Stanislas Szukalski, and by the painters Austin Osman Spare and Mati Klarwein.[18] He was also a personal friend of Timothy Leary. Giger studied interior and industrial design at the School of Commercial Art in Zurich (from 1962 to 1965) and made his first paintings as a means of art therapy.[1]

Other works

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,[19] 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.[1]

Giger applied his biomechanical style to interior design. One "Giger Bar" appeared in Tokyo, but the realization of his designs were 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 Giger Bar.[20] The two Giger Bars in his native Switzerland (in Gruyères and Chur), however, 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 Giger Bars in Switzerland. The arrangement was terminated after two years when the Limelight closed.[21] As of 2009 only the two authentic Swiss Giger Bars remain.

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.[1]

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.


Jonathan Davis with his microphone stand

Work for recording artists

Interior decoration

Video games


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hans Ruedi Giger, HR Giger ARh+, translated by Karen Williams, Taschen, 1993. ISBN 978-3-8228-9642-6.
  2. HR Giger Museum – Biography – page 6 of 28
  3. "Out of this world: {...} Welcome to the Giger Bar". Samantha Warwick. The Guardian. 29 April 2006. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  4. "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org.
  5. "H. R. Giger". Science Fiction Awards Database (sfadb.com). Mark R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  6. "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame: EMP welcomes five major players". [June 2013].
    "H.R. Giger: The man behind the monster, Alien". EMP Museum (empmuseum.org). Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  7. Gary Singh, "Giger Harvest", Silicon Alleys, Metro Silicon Valley, 8–14 July 2009, p. 8.
  8. Gilbey, Ryan. "HR Giger obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  9. "HR Giger Abbreviated Biography", 12 December 2012.
  10. Martin, Douglas (14 May 2014). "H. R. Giger, Swiss Artist, Dies at 74; His Vision Gave Life to 'Alien' Creature". New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  11. Staff (13 May 2014). "'Alien' creator H.R. Giger is dead". swissinfo. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. Jordans, Frank (13 May 2014). "'Alien' artist H.R. Giger dies at 74". Associated Press. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  13. Staff (13 May 2014). "Der "Alien"-Vater ist tot". Tages-Anzeiger. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  14. Chu, Christine. "HR Giger Retrospective Comes to the Museum of Arts and Design One Year After His Death". Artnet. Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  15. Belinda Sallin on capturing the life and art of H.R. Giger – Blastr – Ernie Estrella, May 15, 2015
  16. Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World (2014) at the Internet Movie Database
  17. http://www.hrgiger.com/museum/introduction.htm
  18. "R.F. Paul. "Baphomet's Lament: An Interview with H.R. Giger". Esoterra: The Journal of Extreme Culture 9 (Fall/Winter 2000)
  19. Sheldon Teitelbaum, "Giger's Necronomicon Imagery Comes Alive on the Screen", Cinefantastique vol. 18 no. 4, May 1988, p. 13 (PDF). Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  20. Cheers to the aliens: Sci-Fi Hotel, Giger Bar coming to US? Sci-Fi Hotel founder Andy Davies teams up with "Alien" artist H.R. Giger to open a hotel bar, yet where it will land is still unknown. by Bonnie Burton @bonniegrrl 7 January 2014 http://www.cnet.com/news/cheers-to-the-aliens-sci-fi-hotel-giger-bar-coming-to-us/
  21. Frank X. Owen, Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture, New York: St. Martin's, 2003, p. 269.
  22. Ben Beaumont-Thomas. "Sci-fi surrealist HR Giger, creator of Alien visions, dies in fall | Film". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  23. HR Giger otherworldly characters in Ridley Scott’s Alien
  24. "Killer Condom - full cast & crew". IMDB. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  25. "Killer Condom". Stockholm Film Festival. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  26. 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.
  27. Davis, Lauren (3 November 2009). "Batman Forever Missed Out on HR Giger's Alien Batmobile". io9.
  28. "Movie Projects with H.R.Giger". Littlegiger.com. 31 August 1997. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  29. "Interview: Ridley Scott Talks Prometheus, Giger, Beginning of Man and Original Alien". Filmophilia. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  30. "ISLAND Pictures". Prog Archives (progarchives.com).
  31. HR Giger. Taschen. 2002. p. 114. ISBN 3-8228-1723-6.
  32. Stuart, Keith (13 May 2014). "HR Giger: artist whose biomechanical art had vast influence on game design". theguardian.com. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
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