Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, best known for the 1978 classic The Snowman, has died aged 88.
The announcement was made by its publisher, Penguin Random House.
The Snowman was first published as a picture book – and sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide – before being 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 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.
“He lived a rich and full life and said he felt lucky to have had both his wife Jean and his companion of over 40 years Liz in his life.
“He shared his love of nature with Liz on walks in the South Downs and on family holidays in Scotland and Wales. He also shared his sense of fun and madness with his family and with his family of artist friends – at get-togethers, costume parties and summer picnics in the garden.
“He was playing practical jokes and enjoyed being played on. All of us close to him knew his irreverent humor – it could be biting in his work when it came to those in power. He loved 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 Brighton College of Art.
It has won numerous awards throughout its career, including the Kurt Maschler Award, Children’s Book of the Year, Dutch Silver Pen Award. He was appointed CBE for services to literature in 2017.
Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “I am very proud that Puffin has been Raymond’s children’s book house for so many years.
“Raymond’s books are illustrated masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, addressing adults and children alike with remarkable economy of words and illustrations. ”
She said he was “a brilliantly observant and funny storyteller, honest about life rather than how adults might wish to tell it to children”.
“A kindness, integrity and generosity runs through all of his books,” she added.
“And so in life: Raymond was a generous and not very jealous spirit with whom it was a pleasure to work, as well as to visit in his Sussex cottage and to discover his teasing genius in his house. He was funny! He made us laugh a lot. I’ll miss him. All of us who had the privilege of working with him will be missed.”
Ms Dow said Briggs had been “unique” and had “inspired generations of picture book, graphic novel and animation creators”.
She added: “He leaves an extraordinary legacy and a big hole.”
An “industry titan”
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, period. Thanks for inspiring me, Mr. Briggs. RIP.”
The Book Trust, which presented Briggs with a lifetime achievement award in 2017, said it was “devastated” to learn of his death.
Cressida Cowell, author and illustrator of How To Train Your Dragon, said: “Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Raymond Briggs.
“What a wonderful legacy he leaves, from his iconic Santa Claus and the snowman to the terrifying Where the Wind Blows. His books have brought so much joy and inspired so many touching, hilarious and heartbreaking works”