Norman Anthony "Tony" Hart was born in Maidstone, Kent, on 15 October 1925, son of Norman C. Hart, a local government official and amateur painter and cartoonist, and his wife Evelyn E, née Dyke, an amateur opera singer. He was educated at All Saints Resident Choir School in Westminster and Clayesmore School in Dorset.
He left school at 17 and applied to join the RAF, but an eye defect disqualified him from flying duty and instead followed in his father's footsteps and joined the British Indian Army, serving as a junior officer in the 1st Gurkha Rifles for four years. When off-duty he would study at an art school in Madras. When India became independent in 1947 it was announced that low-ranked British officers would be replaced by Indian officers. Hart left the army and returned to England in 1947.
He studied at Maidstone College of Art, graduating in 1950. He then moved to London and became a commercial artist. After meeting a television producer at a party and impressing him with his ability to draw quickly on the spot, he was offered a job at the BBC, working on the Eamonn Andrews show, and later as resident artist on children's programmes Saturday Special and Playbox. He designed the logo for Blue Peter, and told and illustrated stories about a little white elephant called Packi for the same programme. He also illustrated Packi stories for 'TV Comic, and drew other strips for the title including Sooty, Runaway Band and Billy Bean. Packi also appeared in TV Land in 1960. He married Jean Skingle in 1953, with whom he had one daughter.
Other TV shows he appeared on include Ask Your Dad, Disney Wonderland, Stories in Pictures and Tich and Quackers. He was a mainstay of Vision On (1964-76), a show for deaf children, after which he presented the art shows Take Hart (1976-85), Hart Beat (1985-93), Artbox Bunch (1995-96) and Smart Hart (1999-2000), in which he would demonstrate (often unorthodox) art techniques and present a gallery of drawings and paintings sent in by young viewers. He retired from TV in 2001. He won two BAFTAS in 1984 and 1998, the second a lifetime achievement award.
He suffered two strokes in 2003, which left him unable to draw or paint. He died at his home in Shamley Green, Surrey, on 18 January 2009.
- Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, p. 73
- Steve Holland, Tony Hart (1925-2009), Bear Alley, 18 January 2009
- Obituary: Tony Hart, Daily Telegraph, 18 January 2009