New desk art set reproduces 100 of the best Ralph McQuarrie designs that became Star Wars

Review by C.J. Bunce

The 800-page, two-volume hardcover book set Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, published last year by Abrams (still in print and available here at Amazon), has been celebrated by fans as one of the best looks behind the scenes of Star Wars ever created.  The exhaustive, comprehensive collection of the concept art Ralph McQuarrie created for the original Star Wars trilogy will enlighten even the biggest fans of the franchise.  You may have known how closely McQuarrie worked with George Lucas to bring Lucas’s story to life visually, but only after stepping scene by scene through these images do you realize that when you close your eyes and think Star Wars, what you’re seeing was drawn or painted by Ralph McQuarrie.

Compiled by Brandon Alinger, Wade Lageose, and David Mandel, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie takes readers chronologically through the films, and tie-in specials, documenting not only the familiar final visual McQuarrie created, but copies of retained interim designs that McQuarrie painted over.  So if your only familiarity is The Illustrated Star Wars Universe or the original portfolio reprints many of us had as kids, then this monumental volume is for you.  But this book set may not be in most readers’ budgets, listing at $250 and even on sale it can be priced at greater than $150.  Star Wars and Ralph McQuarrie fans now have a second opportunity to obtain a more affordable look at McQuarrie’s artwork.

Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie: 100 Postcards is Abrams’ latest bookshelf keepsake in the style of the successful Star Wars: Frames: 100 Postcards series reviewed previously here at back in 2015.  Selected from Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, these panoramic postcards are a celebration of Star Wars as a masterpiece of design and world-building.  The deluxe full-color package also functions as a display frame: the box features a die-cut window, so fans can rotate their favorite production design paintings into view.

R2-D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, the Millennium Falcon, the Rebel base, the Sandcrawler, X-Wing Fighters, TIE Fighters, the Death Star, and the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars, then Cloud City, AT-ATs, 2-1B, Probe Droids, the ion cannon, Dagobah and Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back, and the sail barge, Endor, the Rancor, Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band, speeder bikes, A-Wing Fighters and B-Wing Fighters from Return of the Jedi, and even several cityscapes that inspired matte paintings for Lucas’s prequel series all can be found in the postcard artwork selection–and each was interpreted into its final or near-final image by McQuarrie from Lucas’s story and conversations with Lucas.

Last year’s two-book, 800-page Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie chronology.

McQuarrie, who died in 2015, was one of the most well-known conceptual designer and illustrators.  His career included work on the original Battlestar Galactica, the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the film Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award.

A great overview of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art paintings from the original Star Wars series and a nice bookshelf display, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie: 100 Postcards is now available here at Amazon.

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