Tony Hart

Tony Hart – who died in January 2009 was, in his own small way, one of the most influential artists in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century.

He first came to public attention in 1959 with a number of appearances on the BBC Children’s programme ‘Blue Peter’ – for which he also designed the programme’s distinctive ‘ship’ emblem. After his appearances on Blue Peter Hart went on to present the BBC TV programme ‘Vision On’ which ran from 1964 until 1976with Pat Keysell. ‘Vision On’ was primarily aimed at deaf children, and featured madcap film sequences (including some by Sylvester McCoy – who was the seventh actor to play Doctor Who). But it was Tony Hart’s relaxed and inspired approach towards art that inspired a generation of schoolchildren – he would demonstrate how to make ink stamps using halved potatoes, construct mosaics using dried pasta or sketch a massive cartoon on a car-park using a line roller.

A key feature of Vision On (and subsequent Tony Hart TV programmes) was ‘The Gallery’ which featured artwork sent in by young viewers – always followed by an invitation to send more artwork in, with an apology that the artwork could not be returned. Maybe there’s a BBC warehouse somewhere stacked with artwork by juvenile Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin… the place would be worth a fortune! But knowing the BBC they simply junked them.

After ‘Vision On’ Tony Hart was offered his own series ‘Take Hart’ which ran from 1977 to 1983 and then ‘Hartbeat’ which ran from 1984 to 1993. These series introduced the animated character ‘Morph’  – made from ‘Plasticine’ using a technique now known as ‘claymation’. The producers of the ‘Morph’ segments were Aardman Animations who went on to produce the award winning ‘Wallace and Grommit’ series of films.

Tony Hart retired from television in 2001 and died peacefully at his home in Surrey, having earlier suffered debilitating strokes that left him unable to paint or draw “the greatest cross I have to bear”, but to millions of children in the sixties and seventies, he was the inspiration for them to rick up a paintbrush, or crayon, or dried pasta for the first time.