See the Quay Brothers’ ‘Black Drawings,’ a Series of Imaginary Film Posters


Stephen and Timothy Quay, identical twin artists from the suburbs of Philadelphia, started their careers in the city of brotherly love as students studying illustration and film at the University of the Arts. During the early to mid-Seventies, the Quay Brothers began to focus more on cinema, creating a language all their own full of esoteric symbols, eccentric materials fashioned into strange creatures, and atmospheric settings.

Their Black Drawings were also created during this time — a series of imaginary film posters created from ink-black graphite. Now, those rarely seen works are featured in a new book, Quay Brothers: The Black Drawings 1974—1977, published by Ludion. From the publisher:

They kept their first autonomous art project hidden for decades, allowing only a few glimpses to transpire in some of their animation classics such as Nuctura Artificialia and Street of Crocodiles. In hindsight, the Black Drawings can be considered as a blueprint for their future work. This book offers a first in-depth exploration of this important graphic series that reveals many of the themes and techniques that would come to life in their celebrated animation films.

See a preview of Quay Brothers: The Black Drawings 1974—1977 in our gallery.

Midday Curfew (Cyrffew Canol Dydd), c. 1974-77Pencil on illustration board76 x 51 cm (29 ⅞ x 20 ⅛ in)Courtesy QbfZ Collection

The Suburbs of Long Suffering, c. 1974-77Pencil on illustration board63.4 x 51 cm (25 x 20 ⅛ in)Courtesy QbfZ Collection

Bagatelles pour un massacre, c. 1974-77Pencil on illustration board33 x 25.4 cm (13 x 10 in)Courtesy QbfZ Collection

The Goal Keeper’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, c. 1974-77Pencil on illustration boardFramed: 63 x 51 cm (24 ⅘ x 20 ⅛ in)Courtesy QbfZ Collection

Električka v Katedrale, c. 1974-77Pencil on illustration board61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in)Courtesy Kathleen Mackenzie Younger