cover image Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story

Stuart R. Kaplan. U.S. Games Systems, $45 (440p) ISBN 978-1-57281-912-2

This swank illustrated biography commemorates the 140th anniversary of the birth of Pamela Colman Smith (1878–1951), a British-American artist best known as the illustrator of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The book opens with an overview of Smith’s life that focuses on her creative endeavors outside of the visual arts, including her founding of the literary magazine The Green Sheaf. While studying at Pratt Institute in New York, Smith was known for performing plays in her “miniature theater” to the delight of her fellow students and teachers. Later sections pay particular attention to Smith’s creative process and the design influence of the tarot deck: the flat look and tilted stance of the figures are inspired by Japanese art, and certain poses of the tarot figures are mirror copies of Christian art. Beautiful reproductions of Smith’s work in bold saturated colors fill nearly every page of the book and are accentuated by archival material including photos of her miniature theater performances and pages from her journals and sketchbooks. Together, the text and illustrations make for a stimulating entryway into the imaginative world of a nearly forgotten illustrator. [em](July) [/em]