"Then, in the mid-1990s, he was asked to join a British television series about archaeology called Time Team. The director and producer of the series had seen Ambrus’s work and wanted him to illustrate for the show the excavations they were working on.
This remarkable opportunity lasted for the twenty years the program aired."
...From interpreting Homer and Shakespeare, and the first edition of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, to 20 years working with archaeologists on the Channel 4 TV series Time Team, Ambrus was one of Britain’s most outstanding illustrators, to be ranked
with such of his childhood heroes as Arthur Rackham and EH Shepard. Yet Britain was his country of choice, not birth.
In 1956 he was a student at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest when Soviet forces entered the city to suppress the revolution. As a member of the National Guard, Ambrus was entrusted with securing the principal’s office but, as he told it,
fell deeply asleep in the padded leather seats. Woken by hammering, he pulled aside curtains to find himself staring into the barrel of a Russian tank. He was taken down into the building’s basement, where his captors, working from a list of names,
shot four of his friends and four soldiers. He escaped, left his family and walked overnight through heavy snow to the safety of Austria. When the opportunity came, he was asked where he wanted to go? Without hesitating he said: “England”.
It was a choice driven by art. He had been drawing since he learned to use a pencil as a young boy, inspired by British illustrated books and Hungarian artists, among them Mihály Zichy. Like them, he drew tales – including scenes from Hungarian
history – and throughout his long career, whether he was illuminating history, fiction or fantasy, storytelling was at the heart of his work. Britain was the place where he could continue to draw, to put into books the illustrations and stories he had
Within months of arrival at Blackbushe airport, Hampshire, Ambrus was working at the nearby Farnham School of Art, Surrey. The principal immediately recognised his talent and proposed him as an associate at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, where
– now calling himself Victor, translating his first name, Győző, from Hungarian – he was supported by a three-year scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
He published his first book before he graduated in 1960, and moving from one commission and recommendation to another, left a trail of illustrated volumes that have inspired generations of children. He had an enormous back catalogue when, in 1990, he was
approached to illustrate a new archaeology series for television....