Although best known for The Snowman, the illustrator and author also produced a number of other classics, including When the Wind Blows, Father Christmas, Ethel and Ernest, and Fungus the Bogeman.
Popular author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, best known for the children’s classic The Snowmanpassed away at the age of 88.
A statement from his family said: “We know Raymond’s books have been loved and touched by millions of people around the world who will be saddened to hear this news.
“Fan drawings – especially children’s drawings – inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond and hung on the wall of his studio.”
Who Was Raymond Briggs?
Briggs was a famous British illustrator and author who received critical acclaim throughout his career.
He was born on January 18, 1934 in Wimbledon, London to parents Ernest Redvers Briggs and Ethel Bowyer.
Briggs attended Rutlish School, which at the time was a grammar school on Rutlish Road, Merton Park.
He developed an interest in cartooning at an early age, and eventually Briggs studied at Wimbledon School of Art from 1949 to 1953 to study painting and at the Central School of Art to study typography.
Briggs spent 1953-55 on national service in Catterick with the Royal Signals Corps. After his discharge he returned to his studies, devoting himself to painting at the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London, finally graduating in 1957.
He then became a professional illustrator and author, working on children’s books. He also taught part-time illustration at the Brighton School of Art from 1961 to 1986.
Briggs married Jean Clark, a painter, in 1963. She suffered from schizophrenia during her 10-year marriage and died of leukemia in 1973.
After her death, Briggs later “met Liz at our local pub and we began a long friendship that lasted for the next 40 years,” he wrote in a play for the Guardian.
Liz, a retired teacher, died in October 2015 after developing dementia resulting from Parkinson’s disease.
What books has he written?
While Briggs is perhaps best known for his story The Snowmanhe produced a number of popular and iconic works throughout his career.
Some of his other works include:
- Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses (1962), a collection of nursery rhymes and his first book published in America
- The Mother Goose Treasury (1966) and Santa Claus (1973), both recipients of the Kate Greenaway Medal, a literary award recognizing “outstanding illustration in a children’s book”.
- Jim and the beanstalk (1971)
- Fungus the bogeyman (1977)
- mr jim (1980)
- When the wind blows (1982)
- Tin-Pot’s Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman (1984)
- The man (1992), who won the Kurt Maschler Prize, which recognizes “imaginative work for children in which text and illustration are so integrated that they reinforce and balance each other”
- The bear (1994), for which Briggs received the Children’s Literature Association’s Phoenix Picture Book Award
- Ethel & Ernest: A True Story (1998), which tells the story of Briggs’ parents from when they first met in 1928 to their deaths in 1971
- Ug: Young genius of the Stone Age (2001), which won the Nestle Children’s Book Prize Silver Award the year it was published
Various works by Briggs have also been adapted for stage and screen, including of course The Snowman. An animated version of the story was created for Channel 4 in 1982 and has aired every Christmas since, which has become a holiday staple.
At the request of channel 4 in a 2012 interview why he thinks the story The Snowman Briggs fired the audience’s imagination: “I really don’t have the faintest idea. You would have to ask her, I don’t know.
“You just do it and follow common sense logic; this snowman is melting, everything is coming to an end. It’s all very depressing, of course, that’s life. No, I don’t know, I’m just pursuing it realistically, that’s all.
“I don’t know why people like it so much.”
The Snowman The film was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
When the wind blowswhich tells the story of a Soviet Union nuclear attack on Britain from the perspective of retired couple Jim and Hilda Boggs, was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 1983, filmed by director Jimmy Murakami in 1986 and used for the stage on numerous occasions.
Briggs wrote Ivor the invisible, which was released for Channel 4 in 2001 and, unlike his other films, was not adapted from any of his books. Instead of this, Ivor the invisible marked Briggs’ first project designed specifically for the screen.
When did he die?
The von Briggs family confirmed in a statement from his publisher, Penguin Random House, that the author and illustrator passed away on Tuesday morning (August 9).
His family said: “We know Raymond’s books have been loved and touched by millions of people around the world who will be saddened to hear this news.
“Fan drawings – especially children’s drawings – inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond and pinned to the wall of his studio.
“Living a rich and fulfilling life, he said he feels fortunate to have had both his wife Jean and his 40-something partner Liz in his life.
“He shared his love of the outdoors with Liz on walks in the South Downs and family holidays in Scotland and Wales. He also shared his sense of fun and wackiness with his family and family of artist friends—at get-togethers, costume parties, and summer picnics in the garden.
“He played pranks and enjoyed it when they were played on him. All of us who were close to him knew his irreverent sense of humor – it could bite in his work when dealing with the powerful.
“He liked that the Guardian editorial dubbed itself an ‘iconoclastic national treasure.'”
Briggs is survived by his stepdaughter Clare and her husband Fynn; his stepson Tom and his wife Sarah and his three stepchildren.
Honors for Raymond Briggs
Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “Raymond’s books are pictorial masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions about what it means to be human, and with a remarkable economy of words and illustrations for both adults and children speak to.
“Raymond is probably best known for The Snowman. Perhaps needing more freedom than the standard 32-page picture book format would allow, he created a radical and beautiful innovation: a wordless children’s picture book, a still-image storyboard that became an instant classic in its own right, and the much-loved animation. “
Dow said Briggs was “unique” and “inspired generations of picture book, graphic novel and animation creators.”
She added, “He leaves an extraordinary legacy and a big hole.”
Briggs literary agent Hilary Delamere added: “Raymond loved playing the professional curmudgeon, but we will remember him for his love and loss stories.
“I know from the many letters he received how his books and animations touched people’s hearts.”