These Cigarette Cards are by Alexander (‘Alick’) Penrose Forbes Ritchie. They are remarkable cubist portraits made in 1926.

Alexander Penrose Forbes Ritchie was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1868, the tenth surviving child of Patrick D Ritchie, a mercantile clerk, and his wife Agnes.

He studied free of charge at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Antwerp before settling in London in 1892 as an illustrator, poster designer and caricaturist. His work appeared in, among other journals, The Pall Mall Budget, The Sketch, The Bystander and Vanity Fair.

In the summer of 1899 he married Josephine Urania Avierino, and their daughter Irania was born in 1904.

In 1912 he wrote and illustrated Y?, a book described as “Studies in Zoo-All-Awry, Compiled, Invented, Designed, Rhymed, and Pictured by Alick P F Ritchie” and featuring such creatures as ‘The Octopussycat’, ‘The Buffalocust’, ‘The Porcupython’ and ‘The Chimpanzeebra’.

During the First World War several illustrators and cartoonists made ‘Lightning Artist’ films in which they drew propaganda cartoons, sometimes including animation. In 1915 Ritchie made A Pencil and Alick P F Ritchie for Favourite Films, which can be viewed via BFI Player (see link below). Despite the title many of the sketches are drawn in chalk on a blackboard, creating a good, crisp image and producing some nice design by blocking out some areas of white. The film contains some animation, but although well designed and smoothly executed they are rather pragmatic, existing only to serve the narrative, and do not attempt to bring the picture to life. Ritchie went on to produce two more films for Favourite under the series title Alick Ritchie’s Frightful Sketches.

After the War he continued to design posters, including some for London Underground between 1930-1.

He also designed three series of cigarette cards. In 1926 he designed a set of 50 caricatures, the iconic Straight Line Caricatures built up from geometric shapes, for Player’s cigarettes. In 1934 he created Animalloys, an ingenious set of 48 cards for W D & H O Wills: designed in sets of three, they consisted of the head and forelegs, torso, and hind quarters of various animals with the name of the animal similarly divided into three parts. Cards from different sets could be put tugether to make nonsense animals such as the HIPP-ELO-TOR or the ARM-OPA-MUS. He returned to coventional caricature in 1936 with Shots from the Films, a set of 50 cards for Hignett and Ogden.

Alick Ritchie died in Hammersmith in 1938.