Lee Brown Coye

Lee Brown Coye (July 24, 1907 – September 5, 1981) was an American artist.

Coye is probably best remembered for his black-and-white illustrations for pulp magazines and horror fiction, but he produced a variety of works in other media.

Lee Brown Coye
Lee Brown Coye
BornJuly 24, 1907
DiedSeptember 5, 1981 (aged 74)


Coye was born in Syracuse, New York, and as a young man lived in nearby Tully. He spent his entire life in the Central New York area.

He and his wife, Ruth, lived in Syracuse for many years where Coye's activities included teaching adult art classes; working under the Works Progress Administration to paint a mural in the Cazenovia High School in 1934 (since destroyed); advertising for the WSYR Broadcasting System in upstate New York, producing a variety of commissioned works.

The Coyes settled in Hamilton, New York, in 1959 when Lee went to work for Sculptura, a small company that reproduced antique sculptures. The move to Hamilton allowed Coye to fulfill his ambition of returning to a small town and maintaining his own art studio.

Coye was almost entirely self-taught as an artist,[1] and his entire life was devoted to art-related work. As a young man, he attended one semester of night art classes, but his artistic knowledge and abilities came from many years of work and a thorough study of nature. His astute knowledge of body parts developed from his studies of anatomy and his work as a medical illustrator. He spent time attending operations and autopsies, thus becoming extremely familiar with the human body assembled or not.

Recurring motifs

One recurring feature in Coye's work is the motif of wooden sticks, often in latticework-like patterns.[1] This was inspired by a 1938 discovery in an abandoned farmhouse.

Coye had returned to the North Pitcher, New York, area where he spent much of his childhood. While wandering deep in the woods, Coye discovered an abandoned farmhouse. Boards and pieces of wood which had been set perpendicular to one another surrounded the site. Neither inside nor out could Coye find an explanation for the presence of these crossed sticks. In the years following, Coye remained interested in the significance of his discovery.

When Coye returned to the site in 1963, there was nothing left of the building or the sticks (the area had suffered severe flooding), and he never found out why the sticks were there or who it was that had arranged them in such a manner. Because of the strangeness of the entire experience, these forms never left Coye, and they appear in many of his paintings and illustrations.

The incident also inspired Coye's friend Karl Edward Wagner to write the award-winning story "Sticks". A four-page portfolio of Coye's work accompanies the printing of Wagner's story in Gahan Wilson, ed. First World Fantasy Awards. NY: Doubleday, 1977, (between pages 168 and 169).

The crescent moon was an early Coye motif in paintings and illustrations.[1] The whale became a later signature motif. Coye fashioned wooden sculptures, silver pendants and pins, engravings, drawings, and a large painting of the whale. One very fine example is in the Morrisville State College Library collection the 3-foot-long (0.91 m) pine "Moby-Dick" sculpture created in 1965. Image of Moby Dick Sculpture

Illustrator of the macabre

Weird Tales July 1945
Coye's cover for the Weird Tales
Fantastic 196306
Coye provided the cover for Robert Arthur's "The Mirror of Cagliostro " on the June 1963 issue of Fantastic Stories

Coye's fame as an illustrator of the macabre developed as a result of his drawings for three horror anthologies edited by August Derleth in the early 1940s, Sleep No More (1944), Who Knocks (1946), and The Night Side (1947). This subsequently led to additional work for Weird Tales, a popular pulp magazine. Coye's work first appeared in the March 1945 issue of Weird Tales, illustrating the story 'Please Go Way and Let Me Sleep" by Helen Kasson. This tale gave Coye the chance to show dead bodies in various states of decomposition.[2] From 1945 to 1952, his covers and interior work, in a long and fruitful association with the magazine, captured images of horror and the supernatural.[1] A review of Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Hour said his work for Weird Tales produced "some of the magazine's greatest covers and as well as some of the most memorable illustrations to ever appear in pulps". In the 1960s, Coye's work appeared in such magazines as Fantastic and Amazing.

Coye illustrated, as well as the H. P. Lovecraft collection, Three Tales of Horror (Arkham House, 1967), and two deluxe collections of pulp stories edited by Karl Edward Wagner and published by his imprint Carcosa : Manly Wade Wellman's Worse Things Waiting (1975) and Hugh B. Cave's Murgunstrumm and Others (1978). Coye won the World Fantasy Award for best artist in 1975 and 1978.[3] Coye was in the midst of illustrating Cave's volume Death Stalks the Night, which would have been the fifth volume published by North Carolina publishing house Carcosa, when he suffered a crippling stroke and eventually died. The volume's editor, Karl Edward Wagner, abandoned plans to publish through Carcosa, however the volume was eventually issued, with the illustrations Coye had completed, by Fedogan and Bremer.

Other work

Although Coye is best known for his fantasy and horror illustrations, for more than fifty years his artistic output covered a much wider range. He was a watercolor, oil, and egg tempera painter, a muralist, a sculptor, a photographer, a silversmith, and an able builder of models and dioramas. From rats and beetles and disfigured bodies, to whales, mythic figures, and landscapes, Coye's subjects are as diverse as the media in which he worked. All of his work was executed with expert craftsmanship, and exhibits the originality that sprang from his renowned imagination and sense of humor. Coye created paintings, sculpture, and jewelry that are as beautiful as his illustrations are macabre. Image of Night Side cover Coye exhibited at the Whitney Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His work is represented in numerous collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,[4] the Everson Museum in Syracuse, the Onondaga County Historical Society, Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, the Morrisville State College Library, SUNY Oswego, Syracuse University, and private collections.

In 2015 Where Is Abby? & Other Tales was published.[5] The book features some stories from Coye's "Chips and Shavings" Coye's column printed by "Mid-York Weekly" newspaper between 1964 and 1970.[6] One of these tales (based on true stories) also appears (as "From Chips and Shavings") in Gahan Wilson, ed. First World Fantasy Awards. NY: Doubleday, 1977, pp. 277–78.

The book Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era was published in 2015.[7] An article, with interviews by the editors of the book, described Coye's illustrations as "whimsical and cartoonish" at first glance but "spine-chilling" with a closer look.[8]


This article is based on "Lee Brown Coye:Illustrator and Artist", The Mage, Summer 1985. It is used and updated with permission of the copyright owner. Additional material is from Bill Drew.

  • Tammra Rayfield, "Lee Brown Coye: Illustrator and Artist, The Mage, Summer 1985 with material added by Bill Drew
  • Bill Drew, Associate Librarian, Morrisville College, Morrisville, NY, interview with Lee Brown Coye


  1. ^ a b c d Squirek, Mark. "A Review of Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Hour". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  2. ^ Gahan Wilson, "Lee Brown Coye: An Appreciation, in Wilson, ed. First World Fantasy Awards, NY: Doubleday, 1977, pp. 256-57.
  3. ^ "Winners". World Fantasy Convention. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Lee Brown Coye-Dark house". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Where Is Abby? & Other Tales". Cadabra Records. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Lee Brown Coye Where Is Abby? & Other Tales". Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Pulp Macabre". Feral House. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  8. ^ Sokol, Zach (January 16, 2016). "'Pulp Macabre': The Art of a Guy Who Used to Bring Severed Heads to the Bar". VICE. Retrieved 12 September 2017.

External links

  • Ortiz, Luis. Arts unknown : the life and art of Lee Brown Coye. New York : Nonstop Press, 2005.
This is the first full biography on this uniquely macabre and eccentric artist, and it will surprise many people unaware of his fine art, book illustrations, cartoon, and sculpture credentials. More than 350 illustrations, including never-before-published art." ISBN 1-933065-04-4 More Information
An interview of Lee Brown Coye conducted by Joseph Trovato.
Coye speaks of the development of his style of painting; painting murals in Utica, New York; Thomas Hart Benton's influence on him; the importance of the Federal Art Project on his career and on the lives and work of other artists. Conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Alicia Austin

Alicia Austin (born 1942) is a US fantasy and science fiction artist and illustrator. She works in print-making, Prismacolor, pastels and watercolors.


Coye is both a given name and a surname.

Notable people with the given name include:

Coye Dunn (1916–2000), American football player

Coye Francies (born 1986), American football playerNotable people with the surname include:

Jean-Baptiste Coye (1711–1771), French writer

Jose Coye (born 1942), Belizean politician

Kevin Coye (born 1976), American soccer player

Lee Brown Coye (1907–1981), American artist

Warren Coye (born 1965), Belizean cyclist

Death Stalks the Night

Death Stalks the Night is a collection of fantasy and horror and Mystery short stories by author Hugh B. Cave. It was originally to have been the fifth volume published by Carcosa, the North Carolina joint publishing venture founded by Karl Edward Wagner, Jim Groce and David Drake. However, Lee Brown Coye, who was completing the illustrations for the volume, died, stalling its publication by Carcosa.

It was eventually released in 1995, including the completed illustrations by Coye, through Fedogan & Bremer in an edition of 2,000 copies, of which 100 were signed by the author. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Dime Mystery Magazine, Terror Tales, Spicy-Adventure Stories, New Mystery Adventures, Super-Detective Stories, Spicy Mystery Stories, Horror Stories, Detective Short Stories and Star Detective Magazine.

Don Maitz

Don Maitz is an American science fiction, fantasy, and commercial artist. He has twice won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, science fiction's highest honor for an artist. His peers in the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists have honored him ten times with a Chesley Award for outstanding achievement, and he has received a Silver Medal of Excellence from the Society of Illustrators.

A native of Plainville, Connecticut, he is a 1975 graduate of the Paier School of Art. His art has adorned the covers of books by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, C. J. Cherryh, Stephen King, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, and Raymond E. Feist, among others. Two compilations of his work have been published, Dreamquests: The Art Of Don Maitz, and First Maitz. He also created the "Captain" character of the Captain Morgan brand of rum.

Maitz resides in Florida with his wife, fantasy novelist and artist Janny Wurts.

Gahan Wilson

Gahan Wilson (born February 18, 1930) is an American author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations.

Wilson was born in Evanston, Illinois. He has been married to author Nancy Winters (née Nancy Dee Midyette) since 1966.


Grotesquerie is a literary form that became a popular genre in the early 20th century. It can be grouped with science fiction and horror. Authors such as Ambrose Bierce, Fritz Leiber, H. Russell Wakefield, Seabury Quinn, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Margaret St. Clair, Stanton A. Coblentz, Lee Brown Coye and Katherine Anne Porter have written books within this genre.

The term has also been used to describe macabre artwork and movies, and it is used in architecture.

Jacek Yerka

Jacek Yerka (born Jacek Kowalski in 1952) is a Polish surrealist painter from Toruń. Yerka's work has been exhibited in Poland, Germany, Monaco, France, and the United States, and may be found in the museums of Poland.

Jason Van Hollander

Jason Van Hollander (born September 9, 1949) is an American illustrator, book designer and occasional author. His stories and collaborations with Darrell Schweitzer earned a World Fantasy Award nomination. Van Hollander's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Weird Tales, Interzone, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and other publications.Van Hollander has created morbid and grotesque artwork which adorns dust jackets of books published by Arkham House, Golden Gryphon Press, PS Publishing, Subterranean Press, Cemetery Dance Publications, Tor Books, Night Shade Books and Ash-Tree Press. He has illustrated books and stories by Thomas Ligotti, Joan Aiken, Gregory Frost, John Clute, Gerald Kersh, Fritz Leiber, Matthew Hughes, Ramsey Campbell, William Hope Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith and Matt Cardin. His media include ink and watercolor, which he has sometimes augmented on the computer.He is listed in the 2009 edition of Science Fiction And Fantasy Artists Of The Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary edited by Robert Weinberg, Jane Frank. His essay "The Digital Moment: Digital Politics" was published in Paint or Pixel: The Digital Divide in Illustration Art edited by Jane Frank (Nonestop Press, 2007).

John Coulthart

John Coulthart (born 15 March 1962) is a British graphic artist, illustrator, author and designer who has produced book covers and illustrations, CD covers and posters. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Lovecraft-inspired book The Haunter of the Dark: And Other Grotesque Visions which contains a collaboration with Alan Moore entitled The Great Old Ones that is unique to this book and also has an introduction by Alan Moore.He has been updating a daily blog entitled cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms since February 2006 and also uses Twitter.

He was nominated for a British Fantasy Award, for Best Artist, in 2005. In 2012 he won the Artist of the Year award at the World Fantasy Awards.

Sleep No More (anthology)

Sleep No More is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye, the first of three similar books in the 1940s. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1944. Featuring short stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and other noted authors of the macabre genre, many of the stories made their initial appearance in Weird Tales magazine. The anthology is considered to be a classic of the genre, and is the initial foray by Coye into the field of horror illustration.

Sticks (short story)

"Sticks" is a short story by horror fiction writer Karl Edward Wagner, first published in the March 1974 issue of Whispers. It has been reprinted in several anthologies, including the revised edition of Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, indicating that it is part of the Cthulhu Mythos genre.

The mysterious lattices of twigs were inspired by the work of Weird Tales artist Lee Brown Coye, who illustrated two Carcosa Press volumes which Wagner edited: Manly Wade Wellman's Worse Things Waiting and Hugh B. Cave's Murgunstrumm and Others (the latter volume appeared some years after "Sticks" was written).

"Sticks" was also the inspiration for the lattice stick structures in the HBO show "True Detective".

The Night Side

The Night Side is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1946. The stories had originally appeared in the magazines Amazing Stories, Collier's Weekly, Weird Tales, Saturday Review, The London Mercury, Unknown, Astounding Stories, Esquire, The Briarcliff Quarterly, Cosmopolitan, Blue Book, Top-Notch and Fantastic Adventures or in the collections The Clock Strikes Twelve, The Children of the Pool, Fearful Pleasures, Nights of the Round Table and My Grimmest Nightmare.

Thomas Canty

Thomas Canty (born 1952) is an illustrator and book designer in the field of fantasy literature.

Thomas Kidd (illustrator)

Thomas Kidd (born 1955) is an American science fiction and fantasy illustrator who lives in New Milford, Connecticut.

Three Tales of Horror

Three Tales of Horror is an illustrated collection of stories by American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in 1967 by Arkham House in an edition of 1,522 copies. The book includes 15 drawings by American artist Lee Brown Coye.

Whispers (magazine)

Whispers was one of the new horror and fantasy fiction magazines of the 1970s.

Who Knocks?

Who Knocks? is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1946. Many of the stories had originally appeared in the magazines Everybody’s Magazine, The Century, Weird Tales, Unknown, Temple Bar, Hutchinson’s Magazine, The English Review, Smith's Magazine and Harper's.

World Fantasy Award—Artist

The World Fantasy Awards are given each year by the World Fantasy Convention for the best fantasy fiction and art published during the preceding calendar year. The awards have been described by sources such as The Guardian as a "prestigious fantasy prize", and one of the three most renowned speculative fiction awards, along with the Hugo and Nebula Awards (which cover both fantasy and science fiction). The World Fantasy Award—Artist is given each year to artists of works related to fantasy released in the preceding calendar year. Fantasy artists are also eligible for the Special Award—Professional category. The Artist category has been awarded annually since 1975.World Fantasy Award nominees and winners are decided by attendees and judges at the annual World Fantasy Convention. A ballot is posted in June for attendees of the current and previous two conferences to determine two of the finalists, and a panel of five judges adds three or more nominees before voting on the overall winner. The panel of judges is typically made up of fantasy authors and is chosen each year by the World Fantasy Awards Administration, which has the power to break ties. The final results are presented at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of October. Winners were presented with a statue in the form of a bust of H. P. Lovecraft through the 2015 awards; more recent winners receive a statuette of a tree.During the 44 nomination years, 91 artists have been nominated; 38 of them have won, including ties. Three artists have won three times: Shaun Tan, out of four nominations; Charles Vess, out of five; and Michael Whelan, out of nine. Four other artists have won twice: Thomas Canty, out of nine nominations; Lee Brown Coye, both times he was nominated; Edward Gorey, out of four; and J. K. Potter, out of ten. No other artists have won more than once. Potter and John Picacio have received the most nominations at ten, followed by Canty, Don Maitz, and Whelan at nine each. Stephen Fabian and John Jude Palencar are tied at eight for the most nominations without winning.

Worse Things Waiting

Worse Things Waiting is a collection of fantasy and horror short stories by author Manly Wade Wellman, with illustrations by Lee Brown Coye. It was released in 1973 by Carcosa in an edition of 2,867 copies, of which 536 pre-ordered copies were signed by the author and artist. Many of the stories originally appeared in the magazines Weird Tales, Strange Stories, Unknown, and Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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