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Date: 18/01/09

The H(e)art Of (H)art

Photo of Tony Hart

Norman Antony Hart
Artist and broadcaster
b. 15 October 1925, d. 18 January 2009

For those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies, during what we can now see to be The Golden Age Of Children's Television, Tony Hart was a central figure.

Although he had worked in television for over a decade by the time it started, it was Vision On in 1964 which made him truly famous. The programme was a strange and wonderful beast: created for deaf children (its predecessor was actually called For Deaf Children - nothing mealy-mouthed in those days, although it is rumoured that a planned sister-series called Cripple's Hour was pulled from the schedules at the last minute), it concentrated on interesting visuals.

In this, Hart was the master. In whatever medium he chose to work - crayons, chalks, charcoal, paint, a stick or a line-painting machine - he could produce before your very eyes images which appeared as if out of nowhere. In this he was somewhat like Rolf Harris, but whereas Harris was hyperactive to the point of mania, Tony Hart was calm, quietly-spoken and avuncular. But far from boring for all that.

That style would never find favour today, I'm afraid. Not because da kidz are too stupid, or too hypered up on blue Smarties or whatever, but simply because those running our television services into the ground are too doped up on focus groups and their own pseud selves to be able to admit that it would still work. Besides which, you're not allowed to do kids' telly now if you're over forty (which is why The Chuckle Brothers are so creepy).

Even for those of us with no discernible talent in that direction, his work could draw admiration and astonishment. I don't think any of us who watched him in those days came away empty handed - however inept we may have been ourselves - even if it was only in an enhanced ability to see the shapes and patterns in the world around us.

Many of that generation (and of the succeeding one who came across Tony Hart's work in his own series which followed after Vision On and which - amongst other things - gave Aardman Animations their own big break) have gone on record as saying that it was watching him which made them into artists, too. All I can say is that I wish I'd had an art teacher like that.

Sadly, two strokes in recent years had left Hart unable even to draw - a frustration which he faced with characteristic good grace. But, for those of us who watched, he had done enough for us down the years. Thank you, Tony.

Update: A simple, yet deeply moving, image created by ms morbo on the Beta board:

Picture of Morph (with black armband) being consoled by Chaz

(PS. I hope this isn't going to be another one of Those Years, Not out of January yet, and two obituaries in this section. Sheesh!)