Saturday 23 March 2019

the queen of wands

We are directed to an exhibit that divines the often unattributed illustrator responsible for the most iconic and authoritative suites of tarot cards in existence out of obscurity and back into the prominence deserving of an individual that designed a deck that’s sold millions and the subject of frequent homage (see also here, here and here).
Pamela Colman Smith (*1878 – †1951)—who also went by the nickname of Pixie—was the amanuensis and muse of scholarly mystic Arthur Edward Waite (*1857 – †1942), to whom Smith was introduced by William Butler Yeats whilst working on commissions by the poet and playwright by mutual membership in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a society heavily into theurgy and cartomancy. Not to be pigeonholed only with the occult, Smith, aside from illustrating the works of Yeats, Bram Stoker and others also lent her talents to creating protest posters for the woman’s suffrage movement and for relief campaigns during the war for the Red Cross. In 1909, she interpreted Waite’s Key to Tarot in visual form and managed to produce eight refined pictures in the course of six months—two more cards than the standard major and minor arcana of seventy-eight with it being a mystery what those extraneous cards represented. Much more to explore at Hyperallergic at the link above.