The Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Snoopy and the enduring Power of Peanuts exhibition, at Somerset House, is awesome! I booked a ticket last minute, to break my cabin fever, and it is hands down the best exhibition I have been to. Honouring Charles M. Schulz’s creation of the Peanut comic strip, the display includes a selection of work from the 50’s until his last piece in 2000. Schulz started drawing from a young age when he realised he could draw better then others. Inspired by American cartoonists, Milton Caniff and Bill Mauldin, Schulz’s drawings portray the ups and downs of everyday life impacted by politics, racism, sexism, war and faith. Often miserable, Charlie Brown is joined by his dog Snoopy and a host of characters including Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Linus who form his gang. Woodstock, the bird and my favourite character, came later as one of the migratory birds that made a permanent residence of Snoopy’s home.
There is a particular poignant part of the exhibition I urge you to look for and spend time at. On the second floor, in a glass case, are letters to Schulz from the Black American community urging him to add a representative character, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. What stood out to me were the requests of ‘representation’ and ‘racial diversity’, terms that we use now, that were already being use and often dismissed then. Schulz was honest in his reply, with concerns portraying a community he had no associations with, but after time, with guidance, he developed Franklin. Despite strong objections from publishers, and readers, Schulz refused to stop including Franklin ensuring he had a voice and key role in the gang’s activities. The typed letters between Schulz and key supporters on display will make you stop and think about the current racial climate.
I spent over three hours in the exhibition reading comic strips and understanding their place in history and the everyday influence of the time. There is a table full of comic books where you can sit and read as many of the stories as you want! Upstairs, a room full of bean bags invites you to lounge, whilst the TV cartoon plays across a massive screen. They even have a physiatrist booth set up with a qualified physiatrist attending twice a week! Real advice, not the empty thoughts Lucy used to provide! The fun bit, where you will have to stand your ground, are the lightboxes that are covered in Charlie Brown characters. Plenty of paper is provided with felt tip pens to make you own cartoon by redrawing your favourite characters and Peanuts scenery.
The exhibition has just opened and finishes 3rd March 2019. Tickets range from £11 to £14 and under 12’s go free.
Are you going to go? What is the best exhibition you have been to this year? PF xo