Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Snoopy and the Enduring Power of Peanuts is an ongoing exhibition at Somerset House, London, that brings together Charles M. Schulz original Peanuts cartoons with work from a wide range of acclaimed contemporary artists and designers who have been inspired by this highly influential and much-loved cartoon. Unique in its enduring appeal, this exhibition explores Peanuts’ renewed agency in contemporary culture and society.
Schulz created 17,897 strips during his life, syndicated to over 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and translated into 21 languages, reaching a truly global audience in an era long before digital communications. Featuring original strips rarely seen in the UK or Europe, the exhibition will celebrate Schulz’s prodigious output and examine his creative process.
Through the prism of the lives and musings of beloved characters, including Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Franklin and Peppermint Patty, Peanuts addressed themes including art, faith, existentialism, race, war and feminism, crossing social and economic boundaries, and standing as a testament to the power of popular arts.
Artist Steve Marchant attended the Private View prior to the opening…
Good Grief, Charlie Brown! at Somerset House is absolutely brilliant: a landmark exhibition that 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. It 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.
I’ve been a lifelong fan of Peanuts, and as such I’ve got to say that this exhibition is nearly everything I could have wanted to see. For starters, the space itself is huge (I’d never been to Somerset House before). There are massive floor to ceiling screens showing an interview with Schulz and a selection of the animated shows, and smaller screens with Peanuts-related content.
In all, 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.
There’s a cabinet with Schulz’s drawing materials in, and letters to/from famous folk; others are filled with toys and ephemera. There’s a life-sized (in fact, adult-sized) ‘Psychiatric Advice’ booth.
Which is all genuinely very nice, but of course the main attraction for true fans is the original artwork, and there’s plenty of it. I didn’t do an exact count, but it’s about 50-60 daily and Sunday strips, which includes quite a few of my most fondly remembered favourites, from the pre-Peanuts ‘Li’l Folks‘ through to the 1990s. Schulz’s strip artwork was huge, so you can really get up close and see the hand of the master at work.
The exhibition also features contemporary works from contributors that include 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.
Somerset House has also unearthed existing work and commissioned new pieces from contemporary practitioners, all of which is influenced by Peanuts. I’ve got broad tastes, but some of it didn’t do much for me; but I’m me, you might feel different.
I spent two hours going through the whole thing three times, and I’ll definitely be going again.
Steve Marchant, author of two books – The Cartoonist’s Workshop (still available on Amazon), and The Computer Cartoon Kit (also available, but horrifically out of date) – is one of the UK’s foremost tutors in comic-strip and cartoon skills. He has taught students of all ages for the last 25 years at London’s City University, Birkbeck (University of London), the Hayward Gallery, Tate Britain, the Arvon Foundation, the Black Cultural Archive, the London Cartoon Centre, and the Cartoon Museum – where he is also the curator of its HLF-funded ‘Comics Creators’ gallery.
He regularly teaches at schools and libraries across the UK and has taught in Hungary and Latvia for the British Council. His personal comic-strips appear sporadically in the award-winning online comic Aces Weekly – and you can find him online at stevemarchantblog.wordpress.com
• Good Grief, Charlie Brown! runs until 3rd March 2019, Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA | Tickets and more information can be found here | Times: Monday, Tuesday, Saturday & Sundays 10.00-18.00 (last admission 17.00), Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 11.00-20.00 (last admission 19.00) Tickets: £14/£11 concessions. Transport: Underground: Temple, Embankment / Rail: Charing Cross, Waterloo, Blackfriars
New exhibition works include
Kim Jones, Artistic Director of Dior Men’s, has loaned a selection of Peanuts sweatshirts and first edition books from his personal archive
- A reimagining of Lucy’s Psychiatric Help booth from artist Marcus Coates invites visitors, seeking answers to their questions about life, to share in some talk therapy
- Artist Ryan Gander presents a new film work and a flag to fly over Somerset House, inspired by his daughter’s drawings of the Peanuts landscape
- Keepsakes featuring Snoopy and the gang from Vietnam War veterans reveal how Schulz’s canine character became interwoven into the iconography of the Vietnam War for serving US soldiers
- NASA delves into its archives to provide photographic prints of Snoopy’s space mission to the Moon with Apollo 10, the rehearsal for the historic lunar landings just a couple of months later
- Lauren LoPrete, creator of This Charming Charlie which became subject to a legal dispute with a major record company, combines lyrics of The Smiths with the Peanuts strips
New events and exhibition extras
Exhibiting artists lead free monthly That’s Art! Tours, taking visitors on a walk and talk through the galleries, sharing insight into the influential impact Schulz’s characters have had on the creation of contemporary works
- A series of Exhibition Lates, including an Unrequited Love special on Valentine’s Day, bring evenings of entertainment inside the exhibition
- Artist and Somerset House Studios resident Matthew Plummer-Fernandez launches his new Augmented Reality app Echo Youth, developed with young school children and free to download, enabling audiences to place placards on world issues in public spaces in an echo of the strip’s famous placards and Snoopy’s own Presidential campaign
Tours: That’s Art!
First Wednesday of the month (7th November, 5th December, 9th January, 6th February)
13:00-13:30, Embankment Galleries Free with exhibition entry
Gallery Late: Peanuts for Your Thoughts
Monday 21st January 2019, 18:30-21:00, Embankment Galleries
£5 plus exhibition entry
Gallery Late: Love is…Unrequited
Thursday 14th February 2019, 18:30-21:00, Embankment Galleries
£5 plus exhibition entry
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