Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tony Hart RIP

As I get older, of course more people that influenced me in my youth will die. It just seems that the last few weeks have had a more than average number of such events. Add to the list Tony Hart, who encouraged those of us who wanted to draw but thought we weren't much good to have a go anyway. The Mail on Sunday says:

"Artist and children's TV presenter Tony Hart died in the early hours of this morning. He was 83. Since retiring in 2001, Hart had suffered from health problems over the last few years, including two strokes. During his long career, Hart appeared on numerous TV shows, including Hartbeat, Saturday Special and Smart Hart.

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1925, Hart became interested in drawing from an early age. After leaving school in 1944, Hart signed up with the Indian Army and became an officer in the 1st Gurkha Rifles in World War II. Once he released from the forces, Hart decided to take his love for art further and signed up at the Maidstone College of Art. Hart's television career began in 1952 after a chance meeting with a BBC producer, during which he displayed his art skills with a paper napkin.

His first TV role was as the resident artist on Saturday Special, before going on to appear on Playbox, Titch and Crackers and Vision On. In 1963, Hart created the first Blue Peter badge for the children's TV show, several years after the programme first started. In 1970, Hart found a popular co-star in the form of plasticine character Morph, who appeared in segments on the artist's TV shows Take Hart and Hartbeat. Hart was noted for encouraging art in schools and children across the country sent in their artwork to his TV shows in the hope of being displayed in 'The Gallery'. His most popular show Hartbeat, which ran from 1985 to 1994, attracted 5.4million viewers and he received between 6,000 to 8,000 letters and drawings a week.

In 1978, he won his first Bafta for a series of comic shorts about a plasticine character called Junfan, before claiming a lifetime achievement award in 1998.

After suffering ill health, Hart retired in 2001 and was devastated two years later when his wife Jean in 2003. Last year, he told of his distress at being unable to draw after strokes left him unable to use his hands properly. He told The Times: 'Today my studio lies abandoned, and I spend most of my day confined to my chair. 'Not being able to draw is the greatest cross that I have to bear, for it has been my lifetime passion. But, I endeavour to stay cheerful, as there is nothing to be done about my condition.'

Hart is survived by his daughter Carolyn and two grandchildren."

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