Tarot artist, Pamela Coleman Smith

 

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“The Blue Cat” by Pamela Colman Smith, 1907, courtesy of Mary Greer

The Ryder-Waite-Smith deck was the deck I used to learn how to read tarot cards, and I think it remains as one of the clearest oracles available. The woman who initially painted the beautiful images on these cards, was Pamela Coleman Smith. She was a true free spirit, and highly talented artist. Here’s a fantastic new article about her life:

Pamela Colman “Pixie” Smith circa 1912
Iconic image from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot that dates to 1909I never knew much about Pixie except that she was British and had died in obscurity; she never realized any financial security or status from illustrating one of the most popular items of printed ephemera in the world. This is largely due to the fact that the RWS Tarot was not widely distributed until circa 1970 when it was acquired by Stuart Kaplan of U.S. Games Systems, twenty years after Pixie’s death in 1951. In my news-feed last fall, I saw Tarot maven Mary Greer mention that she had collaborated on an in-depth biography of Pixie with Kaplan and some other writers. “Why not?” I thought. “Why not learn about one of the most influential artists in the Tarot tradition?”

Love it or hate it, the RWS Tarot defines what most people think of whenever the subject of Tarot cards comes up. Non-specialists may not be aware that the RWS had many historical predecessors and some noble competitors in its day. For the reason of its mass popularity alone, the RWS Tarot merits our interest and respect. When I was picking out an artist for The American Renaissance Tarot, I had Pixie’s straightforward illustrations strongly in mind. The modern trend in Tarot seems to be heavily embroidered fantasy-scapes, and yet Pixie’s bold outlines of figures in theatrical poses, set against two-dimensional backdrops, conveys the Tarot’s archetypes in a decidedly pure and direct manner. ”

Full article here

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