The Art of Life Tarot is beautiful. And it can hardly help but be given that it’s made up of 78 art masterpieces.
Charlene Livingstone has taken her experience as an art historian and used it to curate an absolutely gorgeous fine art Tarot.
Renoir, Klimt, Van Gough, Cezanne, and da Vinci are just a few of the many masters represented.
She’s also included quotes on each card from the greats of philosophy and literature, people like Emerson, Thoreau, Plato, and Lao-tsu.
As a mini art-gallery with inspirational commentary, these cards are amazing. The fact that they’re structured as a Tarot deck makes them even better.
Though not at all a standard RWS deck, the paintings Livingstone chose to represent each card loosely follow the general themes of the Golden Dawn tradition. And many, in fact, are very clearly RWS inspired.
For instance, Gauguin’s portrait Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers is a beautiful depiction of the traditional 8 of Pentacles, as is Raphael’s Pope Leo X with Two Cardinals for the Hierophant.
But some of Livingstone’s other choices offer us a slightly different perspective on the cards.
Instead of the familiar scene of five figures flaunting their sticks in the 5 of Wands, she chose the painting Pere Magloire on the Road to Saint-Clair by Gustave Caillebotte.
It pictures a man unhurriedly walking down a quiet white road, no sign of battle or discord anywhere.
The image suggests to me that the remedy to the strife commonly associated with the 5 of Wands is quiet solitude, maybe a walk by the sea.
The accompanying quote by Euripides fills this idea out – The wisest men follow their own direction.
And following her own direction is clearly what Livingstone did when creating this deck. As she says in the short booklet that comes with it,
I knew that I wanted the format to be different from the others [Tarot decks] I had worked with in the past – more personal and direct, without the interruption of looking elsewhere for card interpretations.
In that I think she succeeded.
Though an understanding of the RWS or Golden Dawn Tarot systems will likely add insight to your readings with this deck, it’s not at all necessary. These cards stand alone, both metaphorically, and quite literally.
One of the especially nice things about the Art of Life is its oversized cards and the beautiful box they come in.
The box allows you to display a card as if it were a little framed painting on an easel. It’s pretty cute, and perfect for the contemplation of a single card and its message.
This is a really nice deck. I recommend it to Tarot reading art fans, bibliomancers, and collectors alike. It’s not just a Tarot deck, it’s a magical fine art collection in a box.
Art of Life © U.S. Games Systems
Card images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.