News - Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

This autumn, Somerset House in London will present Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Peanuts and its Cultural Legacy...

Press Release

 This landmark exhibition showcases the original drawings of the cartoon’s creator Charles M. Schulz, alongside works inspired by Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang, from some of today’s most exciting artists and designers. Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Peanuts and its Cultural Legacy explores the impact of the most successful comic strip of all time on the contemporary cultural landscape, uncovering the social, political and philosophical complexities told through the four-panel comic strip that have spoken to scores of artists and designers in their own work.

In partnership with the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in California, the exhibition features over 100 comic strips and personal artefacts from the Schulz Museum and contemporary works from contributors including: Andy Holden, David Musgrave, Fiona Banner, François Curlet, KAWS, Ken Kagami, Lucas Price, Mark Drew, Mark Mulroney, Mel Brimfield, Mira Calix, Ryan Gander and Steven Claydon.

As a generation of artists who grew up during the ‘golden age’ of Peanuts come to prominence today, its presence in the ideas and ambitions of contemporary media, from film and fashion to street art and sculpture, seems more powerful and meaningful than ever before.

For the exhibition, Somerset House has unearthed existing work and commissioned new pieces from contemporary practitioners, all of which is influenced by Peanuts. These will sit alongside Schulz’s original strips, rarely-seen in Europe, and together provide new perspectives on the comic masterpiece.

Peanuts has been widely acknowledged as one of the most popular and influential comic strips of all time. From 1950 to 2000, creator Charles M. Schulz produced 17,897 Peanuts strips, syndicated to over 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and translated into 21 languages, totalling a readership of 355 million people.

For many, Peanuts became an important part of their daily lives and its cast of misfit characters - including everyone’s favourite cartoon canine Snoopy, loveable loser Charlie Brown, blanket-toting philosopher Linus, bossy older sister Lucy, piano-playing Schroeder and sports-obsessed Peppermint Patty – continue to captivate audiences, young and old, around the world. Within their adultless society, their tangle of relationships mirror minutiae everyday realities, emulating the joys, anxieties and vulnerabilities of life.

Schulz’s cast of children commented on topical issues, so much so that the comic has become a chronicle of the social and political climate in the latter half of the twentieth century. His strips also spoke to the soul, pondering age-old questions in the search for meaning in the small game of life. Indeed, Peanuts philosophies and aphorisms have become legend, from Lucy’s “happiness is a warm puppy” to Charlie Brown’s “I only dread one day at a time”.

Schulz’s strip penetrated culture so powerfully that it could help to change attitudes and his cartoon creations certainly provided perspectives not only beyond their years, but also ahead of their time as the exhibition unpacks the panels that tackle topics such as feminism, faith, racial equality and existentialism. Lucy embraced feminist ideals and Peppermint Patty proved that female athletes were just as capable as their male counterparts, in respect to Schulz’s many friends in the field, such as Billie Jean King. 2018 also marks the 50th anniversary of Franklin, the black character introduced into the predominantly white cast after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The exhibition introduces Charles M. Schulz himself, looking at the lives and landscapes that shaped him and his strips. From melancholic Minnesota in the frigid Midwest to sunny Sonoma County in California, where Schulz based his studio for 42 years and the Schulz family built the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, complete with its ‘Warm Puppy Café’, Schulz himself can be seen throughout Peanuts and his experiences in these places enabled him to so perfectly convey the human condition and the state of society in his art. It also explores his love of language and the ‘line’, a famous concept amongst cartoonists to express maximum emotion with the minimum amount of pen strokes on the page. In Peanuts, Schulz created a language of his own and helped compose some of the most commonly used phrases today. For instance, “Good Grief!”, “Blockhead!”, “Rats!”, and “**SIGH**” are just a few of the expressions that Charles M. Schulz immortalised. 

Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Peanuts and its Cultural Legacy is curated by Somerset House’s Senior Curator Claire Catterall, with the support of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. Catterall said: “Schulz had a deep appreciation of and love for the arts and he poured this into Peanuts. Just look at Snoopy – he tirelessly read War and Peace, one word per day, and hoped himself to become a ‘World Famous Author’ with titles such as ‘Snow White and the Seven Beagles’, despite repeated rejections. Once, he even had his famous dog kennel wrapped by environmental artist Christo, a remarkable TARDIS-like building that also housed a Van Gogh.

“Schulz saw himself in Schroeder – the musical genius who poured everything into his work to the exclusion of much else. Although cloaked in humour, Schulz understood the artistic imperative – what it took to be a great artist – and we see this over and over again in the strip.

“We’re told by his family that Schulz – or Sparky as they call him – would have been so happy and humbled by an exhibition where the world of arts and culture reference him and his own creations in response to the deep and enduring influence he has had on them.”

The exhibition runs from 25 October 2018 – 3 March 2019. Find out more and book tickets at the Somerset House website.
Image - © Peanuts
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