The cards were drawn in 1909 by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur Edward Waite. Smith's vibrant drawings transformed the standard tarot deck. "A unique feature of the Rider-Waite deck, and one of the of the principal reasons for its enduring popularity, is that all of the cards, including the Minor Arcana, depict full scenes with figures and symbols. Prior to the Rider-Waite Tarot, the pip cards of almost all tarot decks were marked only with the arrangement of the suit signs -- swords, wands, cups, and coins, or pentacles. The pictorial images on all the cards allow interpretations without the need to repeatedly consult explanatory text. The innovative Minor Arcana, and Pamela Colman Smith's ability to capture the subtleties of emotion and experience have made the Rider-Waite Tarot a model for the designs of many tarot packs." -- (from The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume III) Rider-Waite Tarot was named one of the Top Ten Tarot Decks of All Time by Aeclectic Tarot.
- Size Cards measure 2.75" x 4.75"
- Language EN
- Artist Pamela Colman Smith
Pamela Coleman Smith was an artist, illustrator, and writer. Born in Pimlico, Middlesex (now London), Smith was the daughter of American merchant Charles Edward Smith and Corinne Colman. Smith’s life was often very transitory. Her father’s job with the West India Improvement Company stationed the family throughout Europe and North America’s eastern coast, and after her mother’s death when Smith was ten she was taken in by family friends who performed in the Lyceum traveling theatre.
In 1893, Smith moved to Brooklyn to be with her father. There, at age 15, she enrolled at the relatively new Pratt Institute and studied art under Arthur Wesley Dow. After her graduation four years later she returned to England, where she became an illustrator and theatrical designer.
Smith wrote and illustrated several books, and designed the Rider-Waite-Smith deck of Tarot cards for Arthur Edward Waite in 1909—designs still used today.
In 1909, Waite paid Smith a flat fee for illustrating his Tarot deck. He chose Pamela for the job because of her talent, their common membership in the Golden Dawn, and because he believed her clairvoyant abilities would help her perceive the higher mystical truths he was attempting to convey with his deck. She not only didn’t benefit financially from the deck, but the publisher’s name was put on the deck instead of hers. Recently, the tarot community has been correcting this injustice by referring to the deck as the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) or Waite Smith deck (WS).
She never married. After the end of the First World War, Smith received an inheritance that enabled her to move to Cornwall, an area popular with artists. She died in Bude, Cornwall on the 18th of September, 1951.