Tony Hart, RIP

Sunday, January 18, 2009 by

Tony Hart, 1925-2009

Tony Hart, 1925-2009

The month continues to take many TV greats. This morning it was announced Tony Hart had passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 83.

A television pioneer, it’s worth remembering how far back his association with the media goes. His first role was as artist in residence on Saturday Special in 1952. Last year, he told the Times how he got the job…

Having bumped into a children’s TV producer at a party, he was invited to an interview: “I was greeted with a cup of coffee, and after some social chatting he said: ‘Can you draw me a fish blowing bubbles?’ He then turned to his secretary and asked her to get a piece of paper for me. When he turned back to me, I had drawn the fish blowing bubbles on the paper napkin that came with the coffee. ‘That’s fast enough for me!’ he said, and I was given a contract.”

With his personable air, and that remarkable gift for almost instantaneous – and very beautiful – cartoons, Hart established himself as a mainstay of children’s programming over the next 50 years.

He’s probably best remembered for Vision On (1964–77), Take Hart (1978–84) and Hartbeat (1985–94) but continued inspiring younger viewers into the new millenium with Smart Hart (1999-2000).

In addition, he designed the famous Blue Peter ship – for which he received a one-off, minimal payment.

Tony Hart hailed from a different age of children’s programming – one where the genre’s personalities fulfilled the roles of gifted uncles and aunties, encouraging and sharing secrets with their audience.  In his case, Hart was never patronising, but keen to encourage anyone at all to be creative.

From that Times article again: “I always tried to make my television art accessible to all, rich or poor. I would often use cheap and readily available materials to create pictures, such as macaroni and lentils. And now, I sincerely hope that I may have inspired you, the reader, to at least try your hand at art. You may well be pleasantly surprised.”

It’s no great exaggeration to say, the nation owes Tony Hart a huge debt in its artistic development over the last half-a-century.

Now let’s look at some of your work, in the gallery…


5 Responses to “Tony Hart, RIP”

  1. Webbie on January 18th, 2009 5:44 pm

    You said it yourself. A pioneer, an icon, an inspiration, a legend.

  2. Rob Williams on January 18th, 2009 6:18 pm

    Thank you Mr Hart for being the kindly and creative uncle inspiring generations of children.

  3. wilsonthebutler on January 18th, 2009 9:06 pm

    I had the pleasure of briefly working with Tony Hart a few years ago. He was every bit as wonderful in real life as he was on television.

    He was a very kind, generous man – a true gent. Modest about his achievements and passionate about his work.

    He inspired several generations of children and will be remembered fondly by so many.

  4. John G on January 19th, 2009 9:24 pm

    I have very fond memories of watching Take Hart and Hartbeat as a kid, and I used to love Morph and the Gallery in particular. I was never much of an artist, but I always used to be fascinated by Tony’s effortless skill. RIP Tony, and thanks for the memories.

  5. Don Cool on January 23rd, 2009 8:19 pm

    As a young child (during the 70′s) I used to hate art classes as I had no inherent artistic abilities whatsoever. That said, I used to love Vision On and, later, Take Hart. There was something very reassuring and soothing about watching Tony in action. (“Don’t worry if it goes a bit wrong!”)

    I particularly liked it when he would seemingly make a mess with paint or whatever and then suddenly rip a top layer of plastic off to reveal a cityscape at night (or animals in the jungle etc).

    I’ll be honest here and say that I used a few of his ideas during art classes at school and passed them off as my own. Sorry Tony. Didn’t think you’d mind. The fact that you managed to get anything through my thick, non-artistic skull is no mean feat indeed!

    RIP Tony Hart