Pamela Colman Smith came into Stieglitz’s gallery in 1906 and asked him to look at some of her drawings and watercolors. She was twenty-eight years old and relatively unknown when they met. Stieglitz was favorably impressed by her youth, exotic appearance and her unusual art. More…

Drawings to Music, 1909

Colman Smith exhibited “Drawings to Music” at 291 in 1909. The times were bubbling with philosophical ideas, artistic experiments with abstraction and spiritual groups. Anyone involved in the Art Scene would have been inspired from several directions, including Georgia O’Keeffe, who visited New York, and even Stieglitz’ gallery, in 1909.

Pamela Colman Smith
Second Series, Duet, Sonata in F Major for Violin and Piano, Mozart
Watercolor on paper
9.75 x 10.25 inches
Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe Archive

Corinne Pamela Colman Smith, “Pixie”,  was born on February 16, 1878 in London.


In 1893 she enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, a school that taught artists to be not an elite but vibrant, creative, contributing members of society. Here, she came under the influence of Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow taught that pictures could be composed the same way music was composed by using color, tone, shape, and line – much more abstract than imitative drawing.


Around the early 1900s, she began to paint her ‘music paintings.’ She was gifted with a high degree of synaesthesia – she ‘saw’ music and was able to transmit those visions into tangible artworks.

Synaesthesia involves the crossing-over of sensory signals – hearing colors, seeing sounds, smelling music or words, etc. We all have this to some degree but PCS became famous for her artworks inspired by music. The music paintings were directly channeled by listening to performances and drawing unconsciously and often stated that if she paid attention to the drawing, she lost the image.

Rider Waite Tarot Deck

Pamela Colman Smith may be best known for the design of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck from 1909.

In the century since the deck’s first printing, there have been dozens of editions put out by various publishers; for some of these the Smith drawings were redrawn by other artists, and for others the cards were rephotographed to create new printing plates.

Many versions have been recolored as the coloration is rather harsh in the original deck, due to the limitations of color printing at the time.

Pamela Colman Smith: Tarot Card Wheel of Fortune, 1909


Brief biography here – link in new window. 


One thought on “Painting to Music – Pamela Colman Smith

  1. Pingback: Yellow Songs – WithFlyingColor News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s