Thursday, August 09, 2007

Unsung Female Fantasy Artist:
Pamela Colman Smith

I'm semi-professional tarot card reader. What that means is that if I made more money on it, I'd be professional.

So the other day I'm reading the cards (you know, asking relevant questions like "who else in the Marvel Universe is a Skrull" and stuff like that) and this artist's biography that came with the deck is staring right at me. The name doesn't sound familiar: "Pamela Colman Smith." I mean, the deck is officially called "Rider-Waite" and I didn't see no "Smith" anywhere.

Just some background on the cards before I go on. The Rider-Waite deck is the most famous, well-known tarot deck ever made. You know these designs of the cards in Marvel's "Mystic Arcana: Tarot" one-shot? Rider-Waite.

Only, neither Rider nor Waite illustrated those cards. Smith did.

But I've read tons of books on the tarot and I've rarely seen mention of Ms. Smith.

Pamela Colman Smith was the illustrator of some of the most famous, enduring images in popular culture. But she didn't have her name attached to them, people have hardly heard of her, and she died penniless & in obscurity in the 1950s.

Are women capable of creating fantastic, unique, iconic, and gripping characters and images that endure the test of time? Yes.


  1. But, wait, it gets worse: Although it's Aleister Crowley's name that is most popularly associated with the OTHER major tarot deck, The Book of Thoth, all the artwork for it was actually done by Lady Frieda Harris.

    Though she at least usually gets the credit in the LWBs and the pop tarot books.

  2. I did not know that. Thanks for sharing.