Poised and determined to continue the fight, Leia Organa stands among the snowcapped mountains, her regal cloaks billowing around her, a blue-bladed lightsaber at her side, ignited and ready for yet another battle. To quote Luke Skywalker, it’s “like something out of a dream.” Or perhaps, as your eyes glide beyond the horizon and the shadow of an Imperial Star Destroyer snaps into focus, it’s more accurate to say it’s a nightmare for the young rebel hero.
This is the image that greets us in a stunning new painting called “Until Our Last Breath” by Christophe Vacher, headed to Acme Archives as a limited print starting today. In the romantic and dramatic piece, Vacher says he envisioned the Leia Organa we glimpsed in a flashback scene in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, training with the weapon of a Jedi but ultimately dedicating her life to the military and political realms in her quest to find some peace and justice in a galaxy plagued by first the Empire, then the First Order. StarWars.com is thrilled to give you your first look at the artwork, with insights from the artist.
StarWars.com: Star Wars fans have rarely seen Leia Organa carrying her lightsaber, so I was thrilled when I first saw how you’d captured her. What inspired this interpretation?
Christophe Vacher: At first, I wasn’t sure how I would visualize Leia, but I knew I wanted to put her in some kind of epic or heroic situation, yet without being corny. While I was putting together some ideas for the piece, I went to Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Canada in December 2019. I had wanted to visit it for 20 years, and was fascinated by the beauty and scale of the place, especially in the depth of winter, while the lake was frozen and the snow covered everything. When I came back, some visuals started to connect in my mind, that epic snowy landscape, and the idea of Leia in the middle of it. What I had seen in the last Star Wars, that short sequence where Leia is trained by Luke, started to trigger questions: what happened to her in those times? How long was she trained? Why did she eventually become a general instead of a Jedi, and did she make that choice or was she pushed into it?
StarWars.com: Your work often has a hauntingly ethereal quality to it, like something from a dream or a fantasy world. Beyond the beautiful mountain scenery, can you tell us more about the composition, especially some of the details like Leia’s robes, which look similar to her dress in Star Wars: A New Hope but fresh and new, and the meaning of the Star Destroyer looming overhead? In your headcanon, where does this scene take place?
Christophe Vacher: Thank you. I love to paint haunting ethereal and epic sceneries. Some of my major influences are the European Symbolists from the 19th century, like Arthur Hacker, Ferdinand Keller, Arnold Bocklin, or even later, the amazing Alphonse Mucha. Although I’d be lucky if I had half their talent. For Leia’s body outfit, I tried to get inspiration from other outfits I had seen in recent Star Wars publications that were depicting a Leia from A New Hope, so it would be consistent with what is out there right now, and I added other elements, like the boots and the robes. I had done another version with just the body outfit without the robes, and it revealed more of the mountains behind her. I liked it too, but it was obvious that the floating robes and the scarf were giving a more epic dimension to the image.
Regarding when this scene takes place, I see it happening after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Eventually, as J.J. Abrams states it, “she makes that personal choice of becoming a general instead of a Jedi,” maybe for selfless reasons, because she feels her people needs her more than ever to lead the fight against the new threat of the First Order, rising from the ashes of the Empire. Since the timeline was kind of loose, I just picked an environment where she might have been training, and where the First Order might have tracked her. The Star Destroyer coming out of the clouds in the background was an idea that came later, at the same time as the title, symbolizing the shadow of things to come and the moment she makes that personal choice.
StarWars.com: You can clearly see the influence of the Romantics in your painting style here. What feeling were you hoping to evoke here?
Christophe Vacher: You are absolutely right. Along with the painters’ influence I mentioned earlier, I wanted to infuse a strong sense of epic Romanticism in the image: picking a grand mountain landscape as the backdrop and putting a Star Destroyer in it coming out of the dark clouds gave the proper sense of massive scale I was looking for. The very theatrical sunrise lighting provided drama, along with the robe floating in the wind, and the lightsaber, ready to honor its purpose. But beyond their aesthetic value, all these visual elements were there first and foremost to capture and support that moment in time when Leia makes that ultimate choice of becoming a general rather than a Jedi, not to respond to any egotistic drive, but rather to serve and lead her people.
StarWars.com: Can you tell us more about the meaning of the title “Until Our Last Breath”?
Christophe Vacher: The title is the soul of the image, that’s what eventually drove its creation. It underlines not only Leia’s determination facing the resurgence of a daunting enemy, but the determination of her people, as well. It came to my mind at the same time I had the vision of the Star Destroyer coming out of the clouds in front of Leia. In that moment, it all came together: the feeling that emanated from Leia, her frailty as a human being, yet her calm and sheer determination to fight the Empire again, her will to give it all she had until her very last breath, and to serve as a leading example, not by arrogance, but by self-sacrifice, for the love of her people. I wanted to perceive that “all or nothing” feel from her, that idea that she had reached the maturity to willingly make the full sacrifice of her life for a just cause if necessary. That moment of total vulnerability was also what she was drawing her maximum strength from. Once I felt that from the character, it became very natural to keep it as the center of focus, to drive the image, to try and connect the viewers with that emotion.
StarWars.com: It’s clear that you have tremendous respect for Leia as a character. Why does she resonate with you?
Christophe Vacher: I think I see her as someone who has become selflessly dedicated to fight for and with her people, despite the tremendous pressure and responsibility as a princess. These are qualities I respect. I felt that in Queen Amidala, too, though in a different way, because Padmé Amidala has a softer personality and I wouldn’t think of her as a general.
I like the evolution of the Leia character throughout the Star Wars saga, from a fairly wild and impulsive young woman to a wise, poised, and collected general. I thought that trying to capture a snapshot of the segment of her life in which that transition happens, trying to capture that transformation and maturity in one image while taking into account all the cultural background and linear story of the Star Wars universe was an interesting challenge.
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Associate Editor Kristin Baver is the author of the book Skywalker: A Family At War, host of This Week! In Star Wars, and an all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.
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