GOOD GRIEF! A Selection from 50 Years of Original Art from Charles M. Schulz’s PEANUTS

Charles M. Schulz, circa 1956, Photographer Frank Ross, staff photographer at The Saturday Evening Post

GOOD GRIEF! A Selection from 50 Years of Original Art from Charles M. Schulz’s PEANUTS

September 01, 2012 to December 30, 2012

Charles M. Schulz’s PEANUTS is not only the most successful newspaper comic strip in the history of the form; it also represents one of the more remarkable achievements in the history of twentieth-century artistic endeavor, in terms of qualitative consistency and sheer longevity. The strip debuted on October 2, 1950, and ran continuously for almost fifty years, with the last Sunday page appearing on February 13the, 2000. Schulz himself passed away only a day before this final strip saw print.

PEANUTS has become part of the national consciousness as a poignant and philosophically sophisticated portrayal of ordinary human disappointment that, even at its most heartbreaking, somehow always manages to remain funny. In Charlie Brown, Schulz reinvented the existential archetype of the loser-everyman; unlike most other little boys in prior comics and children’s literature, he was not a reckless tear-away, a loveable urchin, a little prince, or even a misunderstood geek-genius, but rather an almost painfully unremarkable figure ¾ not badly behaved, but not particularly good at anything, either. In Snoopy, by contrast, Schulz transformed the cliché of “man’s best friend” into an emblem of sheer imaginative vitality: a walking metaphor for the creative impulse itself. But these groundbreaking conceptions did not emerge full-blown from Schulz’s pen; they gradually took shape, in the context of a larger cast of characters that would eventually become almost as famous, developing their familiar, iconic forms slowly over years of intense, disciplined, and daily creative exercise.

Schulz drew nearly 18,000 strips over the course of his astonishing career; selecting just twenty-five to represent that half-century of output is therefore at some level an impossible task. Instead of pretending to an impossible comprehensiveness, then, exhibition curator Ben Saunders has attempted to offer a series of revealing snapshots from all five decades of PEANUTS ¾ producing a kind of “time-lapse” effect, that will allow the viewer to take in the origins, maturation, and final years of this great American masterwork with a slow turn of the head. At the same time, the show will provide a unique perspective onto fifty years of twentieth-century US history and culture, as seen through the eyes of one the country’s most beloved cartoonists.

Watch an interview with exhibition curator Ben Saunders: