New tributes to Victor Ambrus

Tags: Victor Ambrus

Hundreds of tributes have been flooding in for the artist Victor Ambrus. We share some more from Time Team's experts and friends.

Image credit © 2021 Sándor Ambrus

"I am so sad Victor is no longer with us. He was such a lovely person, so gentlemanly, kind and unassuming, very gallant and with a lively sense of humour – and a twinkle in his eye. And a rich personal history – I remember being astounded by his account of participating as a student protester in the 1956 Hungarian Uprising before fleeing his barricaded Art School under a hail of bullets and trekking for days to fight his way through border controls to become one of more than 200,000 refugees – but thankfully not one of the 2,500 Hungarians who lost their lives. This all seemed so uncharacteristic of the quiet, gentle person I knew. Watching Victor bring the past to life through his art never ceased to entrance, and wasn’t restricted to two dimensions – one special moment I will always remember was at Alveston in Gloucestershire. Time Team was investigating a cave containing dog bones, wondering if it was a ritual site, and we wanted to cast a replica of a bronze dog figurine from the Roman temple site of Uley. We needed a wax model to start with and, as we chatted, seemingly with little more attention than I would give to twiddling a pen, Victor caressed into existence the most beautiful, engaging, characterful wax copy of this tiny dog. Thinking of this now, it reminds me of the many lively animals who helped bring the past to life in his many wonderful reconstruction drawings. It is so sad that there will be no more, but we are all very lucky that he leaves such a rich legacy."

Carenza Lewis

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"Victor was a proper central European gentleman; courtly, elegant, chivalrous. He told the most hair-raising stories, including his escape from the Soviet invasion of Hungary, but made them so funny that you split your sides laughing. He was also a fantastic but exhausting dance partner, who made his partner shine while he twirled her (me) around so fast you could hardly stand up afterwards.

On Time Teams, Victor was key to the archaeological process, gently making you think about difficult questions so that he could draw every bit of the scene. He was quite happy to rub out the most exquisite detail if the evidence pointed another way; his art was always practical, whether it was on postage stamps or huge canvases. But when we held a retrospective exhibition for him at Sutton Hoo in 2009 I discovered the real breadth of his art; its movement, its emotions, its energetic life." 

Helen Geake

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"I was deeply saddened when I heard that Victor had died. He was a fine man, full of warmth and generosity and it was a privilege to know him. Not only was he a friend and colleague, but I also regard him as the finest historical reconstruction artist of our time - he brought so much life, energy and humour into his drawings and made the past come to life for adults and children alike. I never tire of looking at his work and still cannot believe that I was fortunate enough to spend many hours in his company. During the course of many Time Team programmes our ideas on what a site looked like would change. I would sit with Victor and describe how those changes affected what he should draw, and I still cannot believe that on many occasions he asked me to rub out some of his earlier work and roughly sketch the alterations for him! It felt bits of a masterpiece were disappearing for ever. Not many artists would be so generous with their artwork. Art was not his only talent however – he was also a good mover on the dance floor but we have no sketches of that – he was too busy. A man of many talents indeed and will be very much missed."

Stewart Ainsworth

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"Victor was an immensely talented man, one of the best and such a good friend. A man who was a great communicator, speaking with pictures and not with words. Now gone to join Mick and Robin."

Phil Harding

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"The often perceived ‘quiet’ member of the Team. A true gentleman. An extremely talented artist. I could always feel his brain cogs whirling into action as I described what the geophysical anomalies were indicating to me; within a few minutes, magnetic anomalies had been transformed into pits, ditches, ovens, kilns, houses, burial mounds and complete archaeological landscapes. As his intricate drawings of the features emerged, so did animals and human figures. A complete archaeological reconstruction brought to back to life. I’m sure that in many of the scenes he created, there was a Victor figure in disguise in the background; just like Hitchcock, who had cameo appearances in his own films. He denied it with a wry smile. Victor was definitely a hidden talent, a man who endured so much in his life. I will raise a glass of red wine with all his former friends from the ‘Time Team family’, as Tim so rightly calls it…. Cheers Victor. RIP."

John Gater

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"A great tree in the park has fallen, a tree many took for granted. He was just always there, drawing and painting our history for us. For so many young people, the first Viking they ever saw, the first castle or king, was drawn by Victor. He also happened to be always most kind and generous."

Sir Michael Morpurgo

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