Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, best known for the 1978 classic The Snowman, has died aged 88.
The announcement was made by his publisher, Penguin Random House.
The Snowman was first released as a picture book – and has sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide – before it was turned into a much-loved animation in 1982. The show was made for Channel 4 and has since become a festive staple and shown every Christmas since.
Briggs also created beloved children’s books Father Christmas and Fungus The Bogeyman.
A statement from his family said: “We know that Raymond’s books were loved by and touched millions of people around the world, who will be sad to hear this news. Drawings from fans – especially children’s drawings – inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond and pinned up on the wall of his studio.
“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’.”
An extraordinary legacy
Born in Wimbledon in 1934, Briggs studied at the Wimbledon School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art before briefly pursuing painting.
After becoming a professional illustrator, he worked and taught illustration at the Brighton College of Art.
His won numerous prizes across his career, including the Kurt Maschler Award, The Children’s Book of the Year, the Dutch Silver Pen Award. He was made a CBE for services to literature in 2017.
Francesca Dow, managing director at Penguin Random House Children’s, 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.”
She said he 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,” she added.
“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.”
A ‘titan of industry’
Illustrator Rob Biddulph, whose titles include Dog Gone and Blown Away, paid tribute to Brigg’s influence on the industry.
“A titan in our industry and a true one-off,” he said.
“The Snowman was a work of undeniable genius – a game-changer, not just in the world of children’s books, but books full stop. Thank you for inspiring me, Mr Briggs. RIP.”
The Book Trust, which awarded Briggs a lifetime achievement award in 2017, said it was “devastated” to hear of his death.
Cressida Cowell, author and illustrator of How To Train Your Dragon, said: “Deeply sad to hear of the death of Raymond Briggs.
“What a magnificent legacy he leaves, from his iconic Father Christmas and the Snowman to the terrifying Where the Wind Blows. His books brought so much joy and inspired so many, touching, hilarious, and heartbreaking work “
British author Lara Maiklem called Briggs “a genius”.
Maiklem, who has worked with Briggs, tweeted alongside a picture of his illustration of Fungus the Bogeyman: “So sad to hear about Raymond Briggs this morning.
“A huge fan since I was a child, I had the great fortune of working with him a few years ago.
“Grumpy and difficult, he was nonetheless a genius.
“Nothing is permanent but woe.”