Ralph McQuarrie’s Original Star Wars Concept Art Unseen for 35 Years May Bring $100,000 at Heritage Auctions

Ralph McQuarrie rare art auction

Ralph McQuarrie’s 1976 paintings played critical role in developing the visual concepts of the first film, crosses auction block Oct. 12

A painting of rebels preparing a hanger of Y-Wing Fighters for a battle against Darth Vader’s empire – a rare piece of Star Wars movie concept art created by artist Ralph McQuarrie to help George Lucas create his space opera – may sell for $100,000 at auction Oct. 12. The auction marks the first time the original 1976 painting will be seen by the public in 35 years.

Titled Y-Wing Fighters in the Rebel Hangar, the gouache on board is one of just a handful of original paintings and drawings McQuarrie and fellow artist Colin Cantwell produced in 1976, as Lucas perfected his idea of good vs. bad set against space as a battlefield. “Ralph’s contribution to the Star Wars world is incalculable,” Lucas once stated, identifying McQuarrie’s art as instrumental in securing 20th Century Fox’s financial support for the first film.

“McQuarrie’s early Star Wars concept paintings are extremely scarce and highly-sought after because they played a key role in bringing the film to fruition,” said Barry Sandoval, Director of Comic Operations at Heritage Auctions. “When we first examined the artwork, we could barely believe it was an original by McQuarrie. It was produced the year before the Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was released in theatres.”

The painting creates a dark spacecraft hangar. In the foreground is presumably a rebel fighter's Y-wing spacecraft with an “R2 droid” unit visible atop the fighter. In the background, McQuarrie features an X-wing Fighter, a craft design used in the film series.

The painting is well known. It was one of the 21 paintings reproduced in the December 1977 Star Wars Portfolio and is reproduced in the 2016 book Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie Volume 1 dated as "January 1976/early 1976." It also appears in The Art of Star Wars (Ballantine, 1979). McQuarrie died in 2012.

Making a living as a conceptual illustrator for companies ranging from Boeing Company to animating CBS’ news coverage of the Apollo space program, Lucas hired McQuarrie to create scenes from a script. McQuarrie went on to design many of the saga’s iconic characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO, as well as many film sets.

“McQuarrie’s original concept art rarely appears at auction,” Sandoval said. “His contribution to cinema history and his character designs shaped the look and direction of science fiction films for the next 40 years and his touch will continue to influence science fiction for many, many generations.”

Ralph McQuarrie’s Y-Wing Fighters in the Rebel Hangar, Star Wars movie concept art, 1976 crosses the auction block Oct. 12 in Heritage Auctions’ Illustration Art Auction. Live bidding takes place in Dallas with worldwide bidding available on HA.com.

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

The Internet’s most popular auction-house website, HA.com, has over one million registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of four million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.

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