Blue Peter's ship-shaped emblem created by Tony Hart, collection reveals

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Craig Simpson
·3 min read
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Tony Hart and his clay figure friend 'Morph' - RADIO TIMES
Tony Hart and his clay figure friend 'Morph' - RADIO TIMES

The Blue Peter ship emblem was inspired by artist Tony Hart's designs for a pirate Humpty Dumpty, his personal drawings reveal. 

Hart enjoyed a long career popularising art for young audiences before his death in 2009, and designed the logo for the children's television staple.

His personal watercolours and sketches are being auctioned off by family friends, and the collection includes pieces from his first ever TV appearance.

These early illustrations appear to reveal the origins of the Blue Peter insignia used from its inception in 1958, and later stamped on badges coveted by generations of children after they were launched in 1963.

An ink drawing by Hart from 1952 shows a galleon under full sail transporting egg-like pirate characters for an illustrated tale called Hooray for Humpty-Dumpty.

Eggs depicted helping a fellow egg onto a ship in Hart's 1952 illustration  
Eggs depicted helping a fellow egg onto a ship in Hart's 1952 illustration

The two-masted vessel is unmistakably the original inspiration for the future Blue Peter heraldry used six years later, family friends of the late illustrator have said.

The collection, up for auction for an expected £20,000, was gifted by Hart to his agent Roc Renals, whose son Nic has decided to sell the works.

“The stuff he did in the 50’s and 60’s was exceptional,” he said.

“The characters and caricatures he created were full of charm. He really captured their personalities very nicely.”

Egg pirates firing a cannon on an ink and watercolour signed by Tony Hart
Egg pirates firing a cannon on an ink and watercolour signed by Tony Hart

Hart’s earliest TV artwork created on commission for the 1952 BBC programme Saturday Special included a set of drawings depicting a pirate ship manned by egg-shaped crew members.

One image shows the Humpty-Dumpty-like figures loading a cannon, another depicts them hauling a comrade aboard a ship, and another shows the stylised vessel in profile.

It is claimed this ship with streaming pennants, although with fewer sails than the final design, is the first appearance of the symbol which would be worn by Blue Peter guests and competition winners for decades.

Nic Renals said:  “He drew those in 1952 and you only have to look at them to see how he worked up the design in the late 1950's for Blue Peter.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that this is where it came from.”

Photocopies of Hart’s later designs for the Blue Peter emblem reveal his meticulous work, which took into account the eventual scale of the small pin.

The ship in profile 
The ship in profile

The badges, which are compulsory for presenters, have been updated since 1963 to include different colours based on the reason for their being awarded, and the small tokens still grant their owners free access to numerous attractions across the UK.

Hart served with the Gurkhas before beginning his work in children’s television in the 1950’s, and his career encompassed shows like Take Hart, Hartbeat, and the claymation comedy show Morph.

Among the pieces being auctioned off are more mature works, with watercolors of the Monsterrat studio of The Beatles’ producer George Martin, landscapes of the Italian riviera, and numerous self-portrait caricatures.

The collection also includes a map drawn by Hart of his home village of Shamley Green in Surrey, showing his aesthetic distaste for additions to the local landscape, with one annotated as “Hideous new Seeboard regulator”.

Blue Peter badges have been coveted by generations of fans 
Blue Peter badges have been coveted by generations of fans

Mr Renals believes the personal collection shows how versatile the children’s presenter was as an artist.

He said: “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. He would go anywhere in the art world to create something different.

“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.”

Hart's works will come to auction at Ewbank’s in Send, Surrey on January 29.