Tong Hart dies at 83

January 19th, 2009 - 11:19 am ICT by Amrit Rashmisrisethi  

Tony HartTony Hart, the veteran children’s TV show presenter and artist, has died at the age of 83, suffering from ill health which included two strokes in the recent years and died peacefully in the early hours of yesterday morning, according to his agent.

Over his 50- years on his television career through the programmes like Vision On, Take Hart and Hartbeat, Hart had become an inspiring and motivation to his budding artists. In the year 2001, before retiring due to his health. His agent, Roc Renals, said his health had recently been in decline and he had been taken to hospital with a chest infection. He described Hart as a “kind man” who was single-minded in his dedication to his work.

“Tony inspired many thousands of young people to take up art. His ability to inspire was his greatest gift,” he said. “He was always ready to communicate with the many people who wrote to him and gave his time very willingly. He loved his work and was totally dedicated to it, and was always able to come up with new ideas and techniques.”

Hart inspired generations of budding artists over his 50-year television career through programmes such as Vision On, Take Hart and Hartbeat, before retiring in 2001 due to ill health. His agent, Roc Renals, said his health had recently been in decline and he had been taken to hospital with a chest infection. He described Hart as a “kind man” who was single-minded in his dedication to his work.

Hart became a stalwart of children’s programming. At its height, Hartbeat attracted 5.4 million viewers, and its picture gallery - where viewers were encouraged to send in their own artistic attempts - received up to 8,000 pieces of artwork a week. From 1977 Hart’s programmes featured another television favourite: his ever-enthusiastic Plasticine sidekick, Morph.

Hart, who created the original Blue Peter badge, received two Bafta awards, and won a lifetime achievement award in 1998, in acknowledgement of his unbroken service to children’s television.

Fellow artist and presenter Rolf Harris described him as “a very gentle and talented guy”. He said: “He enthused and inspired a whole generation of kids into creating their own works of art.”

Hart’s health deteriorated when he suffered two strokes, which left him unable to use his hands. He described the loss of his ability to draw as the greatest challenge in his life. He said: “Not being able to draw is the greatest cross that I have to bear, for it has been my lifetime passion.”

In later years, he took comfort from the fan mail he continued to receive, writing: “My aged heart is warmed by the lovely letters and emails I receive, especially when they tell me that my work on television inspired the writers to become artists, sometimes very successful ones.”

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