Aeclectic Tarot
Tarot Cards & Reviews Live Tarot Readings Tarot Card Meanings Forum Archive

Contemporaries of Pixie's time

  > Aeclectic Tarot Forum > Tarot Special Interest > Rider-Waite-Smith


 
Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar
Lady_Cerridwen  Lady_Cerridwen is offline
Resident
 
Join Date: 06 Oct 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 13
Lady_Cerridwen 
Resident

Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar
Contemporaries of Pixie's time


I've chosen to do my research project / essay on the Waite-Smith deck with the question, "How did the illustrator Pamela Colman Smith approach the Waite-Smith deck and why was she so successful?" (This is still a working question, and may change).The obvious answer would be to say she was the first to produce a pictoral and allegorical Minor Arcana, but wondered what your personal opinion was on the deck, and why it became so famous and 'reliable'. If you were to examine other contemporary decks of PCS' time (Crowley's Thoth etc), who would you say was the most successful? This could be interpretted as to who was the most influencial for today's tarot decks.

Most seem to say it is a 'training deck' because of its rich pictoral symbolisms, and the student is apparently encouraged to move away to more abstract decks like the Thoth deck (just an example). Is that true? Is 'less 'imagery more for Tarot Reader? Can it be that all they have to look at is a few squiggles and hebrew letters to 'get something'?

I'm getting rather nervous about this essay, and this forum looked like the best source of information. Our university library doesn't have much on Tarot Art. It's not easy when you're trying to focus on the ART of tarot, but all you find are books on the art of using tarot (ARG!). If anyone could suggest a few books for this, that would be really thoughtful.

Thanks all!
Top   #1
KariRoad's Avatar
KariRoad  KariRoad is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 23 Sep 2010
Location: Apollo 11
Posts: 418
KariRoad 
Citizen

KariRoad's Avatar

I would begin with an appreciation that Pamela Colman Smith visualised the majority of the images that became the illustrations for her Tarot before she even conceived the notion of creating the deck which should truly be known by her name, with A.E. Waite as a mere tag-along publishing stunt to boost sales.

How did she approach "the deck" is putting the cart before the horse. She lived the deck, each and every card, and thus came to illustrate the images only after experiencing them personally. They lived before they were born, alive in her creative spirit. She gave them the same life they gave her, as dynamic expression of her vision.

Did she create a "training deck" for use in interpreting other Tarots? Absolutely! Was that her intention? No, I think not. Her deck was personal, individual, something unique. But it became at once a universal beacon for others. If we drop the whole crowd of "interpreters" who seem to miss the point anyway, we have in her images something pure, which is what Tarot at its best has always been, no matter how presented.

So, Pamela Colman Smith approached her deck as an honest and sincere person, and she was ( so ) successful because there isn't and ounce of bee-ess in it. It is an artist's deck for the eternal child alive in anyone. To be explored as if in a dream, and experienced as if in adoration.

*

Sadly there were adulterations (VIII switched with XI and the desecration of card II) when the deck went to press, but Pamela never looked back, and Tarot has never been the same.
Top   #2
dadsnook2000's Avatar
dadsnook2000  dadsnook2000 is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 30 Apr 2003
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Posts: 3,474
dadsnook2000 
Citizen

dadsnook2000's Avatar
It would seem . . .


It would seem to me that her style of artistic illustration was already well developed before she worked on this tarot deck. She was an illustrator for a decade before she did her tarot work. "The Artwork & Times of Pamela Coleman Smith" which is contained within the commemorative tarot package released just last year offers a wonderful overview of her life and artwork.

It is my impression that the process for producing color illustrations in books and small newspaper-like printings was just entering the commercial printing industry at that time as some of her works had to be hand colored after printing while later works were printed in colors. The heavy linework which separates each solid color gives us a clue as to the lack of sophistication in the printing industry at that time compared to more recent color printing.

Her style was representative of the best techniques of that period. So, any research through used-book stores and museums for printing around and after 1900 should help you. Dave
Top   #3
Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar
Lady_Cerridwen  Lady_Cerridwen is offline
Resident
 
Join Date: 06 Oct 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 13
Lady_Cerridwen 
Resident

Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar

KariRoad - "Pamela Colman Smith visualised the majority of the images that became the illustrations for her Tarot before she even conceived the notion of creating the deck..."

That kind of makes sense to some of the cards, as I think she did base some of the minor arcana cards from her older work and her imagination. There are quite a few however that are based on the Sola-Busca such as the 3 of Swords and the Aces of each suit. Still trying to chase up images for that, and I've got some from Stuart Kaplan's 'The Encyclopaedia of Tart - vol 1", but not of the ones I want.


dadsnook2000 - Thanks for suggesting "The Artwork & Times of Pamela Coleman Smith", it was one of the first things I jumped on for the essay, hehe. There was a great little thrift 'magic' bookshop just down the road from me, but sadly they closed down. I read (and heard) she was very much a Symbolist, and was even taught by Burne-Jones! Definitely sourcing that as a big influence on her style and approach to her artwork e.g. listening to music and creating wonderful artworks such as the Debussy painting.

"Her style was representative of the best techniques of that period."
- Would it be a good thing to talk about the number of deck editions that were produced? Apparently there were a few that looked like they had been copied by someone else, and didn't give 'all the detail'. E.g. the ink on the lithography press was smudgy or something.

________

Thanks to the both of you. It's really helpful talking to someone about this, as sometimes I feel it's dangerous to get bogged down by research.
Top   #4
KariRoad's Avatar
KariRoad  KariRoad is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 23 Sep 2010
Location: Apollo 11
Posts: 418
KariRoad 
Citizen

KariRoad's Avatar

Comparisons to the Sola Busca are not very helpful, since the few cards that do seem to "match" are of such a universal nature that similar themes could be found in hundreds of cases, before and after the Sola Busca was created.

To me, a good, solid, historical series of definite and unique matches to many of the images (especially the Court Cards) can be found by examining the 1845 Tarot designs of Teodoro Dotti. There exists a series of Tarots of a similar nature based on these images, but it is specifically the 1845 Dotti which deserves attention, because this was also the personal deck of William Butler Yeats, and it is clear that Pamela Colman Smith also owned a copy.

This should be better known, but strangely it is hardly ever mentioned.
Top   #5
Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar
Lady_Cerridwen  Lady_Cerridwen is offline
Resident
 
Join Date: 06 Oct 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 13
Lady_Cerridwen 
Resident

Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar

KariRoad, I could just hug you right now for that nugget of information. Still tempted to thread it in though, as Waite went to the British Museum frequently to see the Sola Busca deck, and even encouraged her to see it for herself. I'll definitely chase up Teodoro Dotti's Tarot designs however. : D
Top   #6
Cerulean's Avatar
Cerulean  Cerulean is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 26 Apr 2002
Location: Calif., USA
Posts: 9,341
Cerulean 
Citizen

Cerulean's Avatar
National Library of Ireland's William Butler Yeat's Exhibit


http://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html

Only a few of the Aces and majors are shown in this exhibit cabinet.

Mary Katherine Greer's "Women of the Golden Dawn" also has a picture or two of the Dotti Tarocco, but it's in the appendix and the book isn't on tarot designs..

This Dotti Tarocco seems very similar to the one pictured in Kathleen Raine's book, "Yeats and the Golden Dawn"--which you can find in Kathleen Raine's anthology "Yeats, The Initiate." Maud Gonne's and Mrs. George Yeats own decks seemed to be other Marseilles-style decks in the Kathleen Raine's book.

But the link above on William Butler Yeat's Golden Dawn years and his tarot--while fascinating as background--might stray from a focus on Pamela Colman Smith's art development. A very broad background:

http://pcs2051.tripod.com/

But one of the best independent references is Frank Jensen's book on the Waite Smith Tarot...here's an article reference from his Courier:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/9915943/Th...Tarot-Editions

and more information:

http://www.manteia-online.dk/frame-8-grey.htm

Hope that helps illuminate P.C.S. and art development if that is the focus of your article/essay. The Manteia Courier info from Frank Jensen might be more in line with PCS information?

Unfortunately, the first post also asked about the Crowley Thoth in a way that puzzled me...the Thoth tarot historically is later than the Waite-Smith tarot. The Crowley Thoth paintings were exhibited around or after WWII and the first mass market publications of the deck from Samuel Weiser and Llewellyn was 50-60 years after the 1909-10 Waite-Smith tarot.

Best regards,

Cerulean
Top   #7
Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar
Lady_Cerridwen  Lady_Cerridwen is offline
Resident
 
Join Date: 06 Oct 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 13
Lady_Cerridwen 
Resident

Lady_Cerridwen's Avatar

Thanks Cerulean, that should keep me occupied for the next few days. Jensen's book looks like it holds a wealth of information for my research.

I ran across that William Butler Yeats online exhibition a few weeks ago, and it really doesn't have much in the way of Tarot. I also have that nagging feeling too, that leaning on Yeats might not be too good. She was a professional artist after all and may have just peeked at one of his journals for reference, who knows though?

However... I've just seen something, and KariRoad, you're onto something.

link removed by Moderator

Can't download the links however, which is a tad bothersome.
Top   #8
KariRoad's Avatar
KariRoad  KariRoad is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 23 Sep 2010
Location: Apollo 11
Posts: 418
KariRoad 
Citizen

KariRoad's Avatar

Pamela Colman Smith and the Yeats family were well acquainted. She often worked directly with W.B. Yeats and more closely perhaps even too with brother Jack Yeats. All this is well documented, but not by Stuart Kaplan or Frank Jensen: they have pre-conceived blinders on (too bad, but so it goes).

Be bold in your research, you will be on solid ground. Waite is the shaky link, a bumbling profiteer. And forget Crowley, even his friends avoided him.

Cerulean is on the mark with Kathleen Raines, but Tarot is Tarot and books are books. LOOK at the 1845 Dotti side-by-side with Pamela Colman Smith's deck.
Top   #9
Debra's Avatar
Debra  Debra is offline
sporadic magic
 
Join Date: 21 Sep 2006
Location: .
Posts: 15,130
Debra 
sporadic magic

Debra's Avatar

Lady, that link in your post may not last, I'm afraid. Best to say it's a collectors forum moderated by Adam McLean, a well-known collector and member here at AT. Anyone going there can search there for Dotti Yeats Smith and find comparison scans of a few cards

KariRoad, my friend, I respectfully disagree. Both decks are gorgeous and in that sense similar, but I'm not seeing enough parallels in composition, body posture, coloration, gesture, faces to draw any solid line between the two. I don't see any reason to think the Dotti was more influential than any other deck that Colman Smith might have examined. The Sola Busca cards are certainly a partial influence--hard to deny that 3 of Swords.

eta: Adam McLean has written a study course on tarot art and has made the first seven lessons available for download free. His website with the links to the course are at his alchemy website.
Top   #10


 


 


Tarot Cards & Reviews Free Tarot Readings Tarot Books Tarot Card Meanings Forum Archive
Aeclectic Tarot Forum Links
· Tarot
· Tarot Special Interest
· Beyond Tarot
· Forum Library

Aeclectic Tarot Categories
· Angel Decks
· Dark & Gothic Decks
· Goddess Decks
· Fairy Decks
· Doreen Virtue Decks
· Beginner Decks
· Cat Decks
· Pagan & Wiccan Decks
· Ancient Egyptian Decks
· Celtic Decks
· Lenormand Decks
· Rider-Waite Decks
· Marseilles Decks
· Thoth Decks
· Oracle Decks
· List All Decks
· Popular Tarot Decks
· Available Decks
· Tarot Books
· What's New

The Aeclectic Tarot Forum closed permanently on July 14th, 2017. The public threads remain online as a read-only archive and resource. More information on our decision can be found here. Thank you for being a part of our active community over the past seventeen years.

Copyright © 1996 - 2017 Aeclectic Tarot. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy. Contact us.