These days, Pamela Colman Smith is best known as the artist behind the Rider-Waite tarot deck, which was first published in 1909.
What most people don't know is that at the time, Pamela was a popular, well-respected artist in her own right. By the time she created the cards, she had already published three books of her own, and she had been commissioned to illustrate books for several other authors. She was also a world-renowned painter whose watercolor exhibits made waves in London and New York. She picked up additional income by designing theater sets and costumes, and by reciting folk tales and poetry in a spellbinding lilt.
She lived in London, Jamaica, and New York, and her circle of friends included poet and playwright William Butler Yeats; popular actress Ellen Terry (the Elizabeth Taylor of her day); and Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula; and J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan.
True fame and fortune eluded her, though, and she died virtually unknown in 1951. Twenty years after her death, however, the cards she created were republished, and millions of modern tarot enthusiasts were welcomed into Smith's world of magic, mystery, and metaphysics.
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Corrine Kenner is the author of several books, including Tarot for Writers, Tarot Journaling, Simple Fortunetelling with Tarot Cards, and Tall Dark Stranger: Tarot for Love and Romance. She's also the creator of the Epicurean Tarot, the Christmas Tarot, and the forthcoming Wizards Tarot deck and book set. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.