On August 9, 2022, Raymond Briggs, the creator of the children’s picture book The Snowmandied at the age of 88. The news was first reported by Briggs editors of Penguin Random House on August 10.
While he was best known for his 1978 The Snowman book, he has been an illustrator, cartoonist and graphic novelist since the early 1950s. Briggs was also the man behind the creation of iconic picture books such as Croquemitaine Mushroom and Santa Claus.
Passing on the unfortunate news, Briggs’ literary agent, Hilary Delamere, said:
“Raymond loved playing the professional grumbler, but he will be remembered for his stories of love and loss. I know from the many letters he received how deeply his books and animations touched people’s hearts. He kept his curiosity and his wonder until the end. Until the last.”
A look at the life and work of Raymond Briggs as an illustrator
Raymond Briggs was born in London, England in 1934. He completed his studies at Wimbledon School of Art and the Slade School of Art in London. Early in his career, Briggs worked in advertising. However, he soon became a children’s book illustrator and professor of illustration at Brighton College of Art.
Briggs first came to public attention for her book of nursery rhymes called Mother Goose’s Treasure in 1966. He also won the Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association of the United Kingdom twice, once in 1966 and the second time in 1973.
Interestingly, Raymond Briggs illustrated books by acclaimed authors, including Allan Ahlberg. The artist has also illustrated his own picture books, two of which are the most successful children’s books of his career, Santa Claus (1973) and The Snowman (1978).
Speaking about his reluctance to sell the film rights to producer John Coates for The SnowmanBriggs told the Guardian:
“Every five minutes he would bring it up and I would say no because I knew he would market it. Which he did. Very well done, at the same time.”
In the same interview with The Guardian, Briggs also spoke about his frustration with The Snowman book and film merging in the public imagination. He noted:
“It pisses me off that people think the success of the book is based on the movie. It’s the other way around, for God’s sake! Not that I care.”
Most of his books have also been translated into different languages and adapted into hit TV cartoons, plays and movies.
Additionally, Briggs also worked on the illustration strip, Ethel and Ernest (1998) which is noted as a biography of his parents’ lives. The story revolves around when the couple met and lived together for 41 years.
Other renowned books by Raymond Briggs include Croquemitaine Mushroom (1977)Unlucky Wally (1987), and the bear (1994).
As for his adult fanbase, Raymond Briggs wrote a book called When the wind blows (1982), which is claimed to be a satire of nuclear war. The book has been adapted into a successful play and movie, The Foreign General Tin Pot and The old iron woman (1984).
In 2019, Briggs released her latest picture book titled Lights out time, which also delves into the physical indignities that occur as one ages. Speaking about the process of finishing the book, Raymond Briggs noted:
“I would finish some of the drawings that are just scribbles. You start drawing it and then you leave it, but you never get to finish it. Everything takes so long when you’re old. I just spent a half an hour getting dressed. Ridiculous!”
Although little has been revealed about Raymond Briggs’ last rites, his family’s statement added that Briggs will be remembered for his “love of nature” and his “sense of fun and madness”.