Drawings of galleon for 1952 Humpty Dumpty story paved the way for famous logo, says son of artist’s agent
Copies of original 1950s designs for the Blue Peter ship emblem by TV artist and presenter Tony Hart will come to auction at Ewbank’s in Surrey on 29th January
Consigned from the collection of Hart’s close friend and agent Roc Renals (1922-2014), the 55-lot sale is expected to raise close to £20,000. It also includes artwork and correspondence spanning the Vision On and Take Hart presenter’s career from the 1950s onwards, including superb ink and watercolour views of the Montserrat home and AIR studio of Renals’ friend, Beatles producer George Martin, not long before they were destroyed in a 1989 hurricane. The studios had hosted recording sessions for Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones and many other top stars.
Hart’s earliest TV artwork, created on commission for a 1952 BBC programme called Saturday Special, reveals his original inspiration for the Blue Peter ship, six years before the children’s TV show launched.
Depicting a galleon in full sail, with streaming pennants – just as the Blue Peter ship would when the programme launched in 1958 – the BAFTA award-winning artist used the design as part of a story entitled Hooray for Humpty-Dumpty, featuring egg-like characters as pirates.
String of highlights
Offered in the auction with a number of other ink and watercolour drawings for the show, the single image of the lone galleon is expected to fetch up to £1,200. Another also showing the galleon ploughing through swelling seas should make around £1,000 say Ewbank’s, the same estimate as yet another image showing the galleon at anchor in an island harbour.
Additional highlights illustrate the full range and versatility of Tony Hart (1925-2009), from accomplished landscape artist to bravura caricaturist. They include a 1969 semi-abstract landscape view of the Ligurian coast that carries a guide of £1,000-2,000, a painting-by-numbers original self-portrait, thought to have been created for one his TV shows, at £400-600, Montserrat and Genovese landscapes at various estimates and even the original signed caricature drawing of the late great Brian Johnston, created for the cricket commentator’s 1994 book I Say, I Say.
One lot, containing a collection of printed and photocopied items, includes photocopies of Hart’s original designs for the Blue Peter ship emblem, even showing how he had taken the eventual scale of the Blue Peter badge into account when it came to designing details.
Another features a map Hart drew of Shamley Green, the village just outside Guildford in Surrey where he lived from 1966 for the rest of his life. Accompanying a letter to Renals as he provides directions to his home, the map even shows Hart’s distate for a recent addition to the local landscape, annotated as “Hideous new Seeboard regulator”.
Consigned by Nic Renals, Roc’s son, the collection charts the longstanding friendship of the pair, as well as Hart’s growing success from the early 1950s onwards.
Nic, who knew Tony well over the years, remembers him with great affection.
“He was exactly the same off camera as on camera, a truly genuine character, friendly, interested in other people, creative and entertaining.
“He and my father were best friends from the 1970s onwards and most of what is included in the collection were presents from Tony over the years, some from TV shows,” says Nic.
“Tony had his house studio at his house in Surrey and I visited him there many times. Although my father was his agent, he was more a friend and mentor.”
The pair originally met in 1974 when Roc invited Tony to open an exhibition of Japanese children’s art.
The family have treasured the gifts ever since, but Roc died in 2014 and after Nic’s mother passed away last year, he decided that the time had come to share the artwork as a reminder of what a talent Tony Hart was.
The right time to sell
“I’ve had a lot of soul searching on whether to sell or not over the past few months,” says Nic, “but while I’m reluctant to sell it in many ways, I have also been thinking about what might eventually happen to it if I don’t.
“They are such wonderful pieces of art and they really show what an amazing talent he was. Having known him for so long, I think that making these things public once more is the right tribute to him and my father’s friendship.”
Nic also believes that the artwork reflects Tony Hart’s personality.
“The stuff he did in the ’50s and ’60s was exceptional. The characters and caricatures he created were full of charm. He really captured their personalities very nicely.”
He is also certain that the Humpty-Dumpty illustrations formed the inspiration for the Blue Peter emblem. “He drew those in 1952 and you only have to look at them to see how he worked up the design in the late 1950s for Blue Peter – there’s no doubt in my mind that this is where it came from.”
The auction also shows how Hart was the master of many mediums, says Nic.
“He would go anywhere in the art world to create something different. His pen skills were outstanding, but he was just as adept with watercolours, creating graphics or even sculpting with plasticine.
“Tony and my dad attended hundreds of events across the decades. He was always trying to inspire kids to get involved with art. He understood that you have to build their appreciation by entertaining them and showing them what they can do for themselves.
“He lived and breathed art. I don’t think he had any other interests. He was totally committed. He seemed flamboyant but was really very focused on the art itself.”
The personal nature of the consignment means that it also includes letters and items with notes and dedications by Hart, shedding further light on his character.
Ewbank’s partner Andrew Ewbank said: “It’s a delight and privilege to host this sale. Not only is there a strong local connection, as Tony Hart lived just up the road from us, but following our recent Gerry Anderson blockbuster auction, we are able to bring yet another iconic children’s TV hero back into the limelight with this amazing selection of personal and professional memorabilia. The fact that this collection has been built up over the years by such a close personal friend just adds to its appeal.”
The Tony Hart Auction. The Collection of Roc Renals, will take place at Ewbank’s Auctions on January 29, starting at midday. Viewing is available online, with bidding taking place live online or using advanced bids via the Ewbank’s website at www.ewbankauctions.co.uk
All images courtesy of Ewbank’s Auctions.