You're a modern American masterpiece, Charlie Brown

You're a modern American masterpiece, Charlie Brown

EUGENE, Ore. - Charles M. Schulz drew "PEANUTS" for 50 years, dying the day before newspapers published his 17,897th comic strip.

“GOOD GRIEF! A Selection of Original Art from 50 Years of Charles M. Schulz's PEANUTS” opens Sept. 1 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

The exhibit chronicles the strip's 5 decades with a selection of 25 originals.

“Although necessarily incomplete, we believe this selection proves one thing: 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,” said Ben Saunders, the exhibit's curator.

“Instead of pretending to an impossible comprehensiveness, we offer a series of revealing snapshots spanning the five decades of 'PEANUTS' to produce a kind of “’time-lapse‘ effect - allowing the viewer to take in the origins, maturation, and final years of the strip in a slow tour of the gallery.”

Saunder said 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 - compelling our attention with his exuberant flights of fantasy, the curator said.

Public activities related to the exhibition include 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.

Saunders is an 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."