Raymond Briggs, known for 1978 classic The Snowman, dies

Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs dies aged 88: Creator of the beloved 1978 children’s classic The Snowman passes away as family pay tribute to writer ‘loved by millions’

  • Best-selling author and illustrator Raymond Briggs has died at age 88 
  • He was best known for the 1978 children’s classic The Snowman 
  • Briggs’ family paid powerful tribute to the beloved novelist and illustrator today 

The family of Raymond Briggs today paid tribute to an author and illustrator ‘loved by millions’ as the creator of the beloved children’s classic The Snowman passed away aged 88.

Briggs enjoyed a long and successful career and is best known as the creator of the hit 1978 cartoon which remains a staple of the festival season to this day.

The wordless picture book has since sold more than 5.5million copies around the world and is reproduced as a televised production every Christmas. 

Over the past fifty years, the best-selling author shifted millions of copies of his famous works including When The Wind Blows, Fungus The Bogeyman, Father Christmas and Ethel & Ernest. 

Relatives confirmed he spent his finals weeks at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, as they praised the ‘kind and thoughtful care’ of the staff there. 

In a statement released by his family today, they paid tribute to the beloved novelist whose books were ‘loved by and touched millions of people around the world’.

The statement read: ‘He lived a rich and full life, and said he felt lucky to have had both his wife Jean, and his partner of over 40 years Liz in his life.

‘He shared his love of nature with Liz on South Downs walks and on family holidays to Scotland and Wales. He also shared his sense of fun and craziness with his family, and with his family of artist friends – at get-togethers, fancy dress parties and summer picnics in the garden.

‘He played practical jokes and enjoyed them being played on him. All of us close to him knew his irreverent humour – this could be biting in his work when it came to those in power. 

‘He liked the Guardian editorial describing himself as an “iconoclastic national treasure”.’

Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, who is best known for the 1978 classic The Snowman, has died aged 88, his publisher Penguin Random House said 

Briggs, who was born in Wimbledon in 1934, enjoyed a long and successful career and is best known as the creator of his 1978 hit The Snowman

Briggs was born into humble beginnings to his milkman father Ernest and housewife Ethel in Wimbledon in 1934.

During the Second World War he was evacuated to Dorset aged 5 where his parents regularly visited him, before returning to south west London and attending Rutlish School, where he pursued cartooning despite his father’s protests.

Ignoring Ernest’s advice that it would be an unprofitable pursuit, Briggs studied painting at the Wimbledon School of Art from 1949 to 1953 and typography at Central School of Art.

He served as a National Service conscript in the Royals Corps of Signals at Catterick between 1953 and 1955, where he was made a draughtsman. He returned to further study at Slade School of Fine Art at UCL, graduating in 1957. 

Despite his penchant for writing and illustrating classic children’s novels, the author overcame multiple tragedies throughout his life. 

Mr Briggs’s mother died of leukaemia in 1971 and, nine months later, his father, a milkman, died of stomach cancer. 

Then on Christmas Eve 1972, his beloved wife, Jean Taprell Clark, a painter who suffered from schizophrenia, was diagnosed with leukaemia. She died months later.

And no amount of fame and fortune made up for the loss of his soulmate of 42 years, Liz, who died after a battle with Parkinson’s in 2015.

Like the barren wintry landscapes that pepper his hit book The Snowman, Briggs had always adopted a cool tone when it came to Christmas. 

In fact, Briggs, whose heartwarming tale is part of the festive season every year for countless families, confessed he did not like the celebrations at all.

‘I’m not a fan of Christmas, although I support the principle of a day of feasting and presents,’ he once said. 

‘But the anxiety starts in October: how many are coming? Are they bringing grandchildren? How long will they stay?’ he told the Daily Mail in 2012.

Briggs was born into humble beginnings to his milkman father Ernest and housewife Ethel in Wimbledon in 1934

Over the past fifty years, the best-selling author shifted millions of copies of his famous works including When The Wind Blows, Fungus The Bogeyman, Father Christmas and Ethel & Ernest

Raymond Briggs is pictured outside Downing Street (second from left) in 1985 as a group of authors and publishers including Caroline Blackwood urged action from then-PM Margaret Thatcher on Nuclear Disarmament

Francesca Dow, managing director of children’s at Penguin Random House, which served as Raymond Briggs’ publisher, said: ‘I am very proud that Puffin has been the home of Raymond’s children’s books for so many years.

‘Raymond’s books are picture masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, speaking to both adults and children with a remarkable economy of words and illustrations.

‘Raymond is probably best known for The Snowman. He needed greater freedom perhaps than the standard 32-page picture book format allowed and created a radical and beautiful innovation: a wordless picture book for children, a storyboard of stills that became an instant classic in its own right, as well as the much-loved animation.’

She added: ‘Raymond was a brilliantly observant, funny storyteller, honest about how life is rather than how adults might wish to tell it to children. A kindness, integrity and generosity run through all his books.

‘And so in life: Raymond was a generous, unjealous spirit who was a pleasure to work with, as well as to visit in his Sussex cottage and experience his teasing genius in its home. He was funny! He made us laugh a lot. I will miss him. All of us who had the privilege of working with him will miss him.’

Ms Dow said Briggs had been ‘unique’ and had ‘inspired generations of creators of picture books, graphic novels, and animations’.

She added: ‘He leaves an extraordinary legacy, and a big hole.’

 

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