Tarot of the Month: In praise of Pamela Colman Smith

220px-Pamela_Colman_Smith_circa_1912This month let us recognize the woman who created the most iconic Tarot images – Pamela Colman Smith. In 1909, she was commissioned by Arthur Waite to illustrate a tarot deck. She was the first to create full illustrate the court and number cards as well as the cards of the Major Arcana.

Smith was well-known as a romantic illustrator, and she designed costumes and sets for the Lyceum Theater (then run by Dracula author Bram Stoker). Smith founded her own magazine, The Green Sheaf, and collected and retold Jamaican fairy tales. She was friends with W.B Yeats, actress Ellen Terry,  and actress Florence Farr, who modeled for Smith during the illustration of the tarot deck.

Like Arthur Waite, Smith was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Her contemporaries speculated about her race (she was rumored to be biracial, although there is no evidence to support this) and her sexuality. Later in life Smith became a Catholic. Her style of art fell out of favor following WWI and is just now receiving renewed recognition.

For more about this amazing woman, here’s the entry I wrote for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Enjoy!




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