From September 1 to December 30, Oregonians and near Oregonians will be able to visit 25 Charles Schulz original on display at “GOOD GRIEF! A Selection of Original Art from 50 Years of Charles M. Schulz’s PEANUTS” at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art’s Artist Project Space. More details of the exhibit and related activities below.
“PEANUTS” ran for fifty years, debuting on October 2, 1950, and running until February 13, 2000. Schulz took only one extended holiday during that entire period (for one month, in the winter of 1997). Otherwise, he worked consistently on the comic until his death, passing away just a day before the last episode saw print. In total, he produced an astonishing 17, 897 PEANUTS strips.
“In selecting just twenty-five examples from this lifetime’s work, the sin of omission is unavoidable,” says exhibition curator Ben Saunders, associate professor of English and director of the new Comics Studies minor at the University of Oregon. In 2009 Saunders curated the exhibition “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Art of the Superhero” at the JSMA. “Instead of pretending to an impossible comprehensiveness,” he continues, “we offer a series of revealing snapshots spanning the five decades of “PEANUTS” to produce a kind of “’time-lapse‘ effect ¾ allowing the viewer to take in the origins, maturation, and final years of the strip in a slow tour of the gallery.”
Saunders adds that today, Charlie Brown is immediately recognizable as an archetype of pop-existentialism. He is a loser-everyman, a cartoon representation of perennial human disappointment; but even at his most desperate, he has somehow never lost the capacity to make us laugh. His canine companion, Snoopy, by contrast, can be reads as an emblem of imaginative vitality ¾ compelling our attention with his exuberant flights of fantasy.
The iconic characters from “PEANUTS” did not spring from Schulz’s pen fully realized. They took shape gradually, over years of disciplined, daily creative exercise, and address the social and cultural changes of the period. For example, the selections on view reflect this tumultuous historical period, and sometimes Schulz’s personal values, with subtle invocations of the Civil Rights struggle, Women’s Liberation, an increasingly litigious society, and the fragility of the natural world.
“Although necessarily incomplete, we believe this selection proves one thing,” says Saunders. “Charles Schulz’s ‘PEANUTS‘ is not merely the most successful newspaper comic strip in the history of the medium. It is also a modern American masterpiece.”
Public activities related to the exhibition include the following two programs:
A Conversation with Jan Eliot on Tuesday, October 23, at 5:30 p.m. Exhibition curator Ben Saunders interviews Jan Eliot about her experiences with Charles Schulz and her own career as the artist of the nationally successful newspaper strip “Stone Soup.”
On Thursday, November 8, at 5:30 p.m., Gary Groth, publisher of Fantagraphics Books and “The Complete Peanuts” and past editor-in-chief of “The Comics Journal,” speaks on the importance of Charles Schulz’s work within the larger tradition of newspaper strip comics. This lecture is co-sponsored by the UO School of Journalism.
“Good Grief” is made possible with funding from the JSMA Academic Support Grant Program, the Coleman-Guitteau OHC Fellowship, and with the help and support of Jean Schulz and the staff of The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, CA.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.