Official Press Release
STOCKBRIDGE, MA – Charles Monroe Schulz brightened the world for 50 years with his Peanuts comic strip. Through the lovable Peanuts characters, Schulz explored the emotional territory of friendship, disappointment, faith and tolerance. Like Norman Rockwell, Schulz was an artist and a storyteller who transformed images of everyday life into art that captures the humor, vulnerability and dignity of the human spirit. Speak Softly and Carry a Beagle: The Art of Charles Schulz celebrates the cartoonist’s extraordinary life, creative process and artistic focus. The show will open at the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge on November 3 and runs through May 5, 2002.
“We are so pleased to present our visitors with the opportunity to experience the art of Charles Schulz. Both Rockwell and Schulz are beloved American artists who had a deep and lasting influence on the way we saw ourselves in the 20th century, ” says Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum.
The exhibition follows Schulz from his Minnesota roots to his life in California, and tracks the development of the characters that make up the unique world of Peanuts. More than 40 original drawings, Schulz quotes, a timeline of the artist’s life and selected Peanuts collectibles will illuminate the story behind the creation of this most popular and influential cartoon strip. Original comic strips by George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), Billy DeBeck (Barney Google) and other prominent cartoonists who influenced Schulz as a young artist will reveal the contrast of his drawing style to the elaborately illustrated cartoons popular during the early 20th century. The installation will also include a viewing area for related videotapes, a reading area for children, and a series of original works placed at a child’s eye level to promote easier viewing.
“Comic strips are an art form: a means of expressing an idea of a great truth in an abbreviated space,” Schulz noted in 1985. He was “master of the slight incident” and broke new ground for newspaper cartoons using innovations such as Lucy’s psychiatric booth, Linus’ security blanket (a term Schulz coined), Snoopy’s doghouse and Schroeder’s music. He profoundly influenced several generations of cartoonists with his spare graphic style and his subtle sense of humor. “With intelligence, honesty, and wonderfully expressive artwork, Charles Schulz gave the comics a unique world of humor, fantasy, warmth and pain that completely reconfigured the comic strip landscape, ” wrote Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, in 1989.
Schulz revolutionized the art of the comic strip through his single-handed dedication to the art, wit, and wisdom of Peanuts. For 50 years, he researched, wrote, designed and drew each Peanuts strip that appeared in daily and Sunday newspapers, producing 17,897 strips in total. From the comic strip’s humble beginnings in 1950, appearing in seven newspapers, Peanuts’ popularity and influence grew rapidly. By 2000, it was the most successful comic strip in newspaper history, appearing in over 40 languages, in more than 2,600 newspapers with over 355 million readers in 75 countries.
The strip and its characters were also the inspiration for over 40 television specials, two plays, a symphonic concerto, many books, and other licensed products. Peanuts products became a $1 billion a year worldwide industry for United Features, and Schulz became the highest paid, most widely read cartoonist ever. He officially retired in December 1999 and always intended that the strip would retire with him. On February 12, 2000, at age 77, just hours before the final Peanuts strip appeared in Sunday newspapers around the world, Charles Schulz died at his home in Santa Rosa, California.
The next morning, tributes ran in papers across the country and in cities around the world, including one from then-president Bill Clinton in USA Today: “The hopeful and hapless Charlie Brown, the joyful Snoopy, the soulful Linus, even the crabby Lucy, give voice, day after day, to what makes us human.” In the February 28, 2000, edition of People magazine, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, author of the 1989 biography Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz, observed, “He showed there was a market for innocence. People may be seduced by glitter, sophomoric stunts and shock radio, but deep down we all yearn for something simple and profound that will endure. He gave that to us.”
Speak Softly and Carry a Beagle: The Art of Charles Schulz has been organized by the Minnesota Museum of American Art, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa, California. The national tour of Speak Softly and Carry a Beagle: The Art of Charles Schulz is sponsored by Hallmark. This exhibition is supported by The Community Foundation for the Capital Region’s Pamela Deely Van De Loo Advised Fund in memory of James and Patricia Deely. The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge is the second venue of the exhibition’s national tour.
Many educational programs and events for students, children and families, and adults will be held at the Museum in conjunction with the exhibition. Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, associate director of exhibitions and programs, adds, “Visitors of all ages and interests are invited to participate in the Museum’s exciting series of workshops, performances, and lectures that explore the art and legacy of Charles Schulz. Celebrated artists, authors and historians will also join us to offer insights into the history, practice and impact of cartoon art in American culture.” The Museum will host a juried national invitational exhibition, “New Digs for the Dog: Build a Better Doghouse for Snoopy.” The three-dimensional works of art that expand upon Snoopy’s original doghouse will be on display at the Museum from April 6 through May 5, 2002.
The Norman Rockwell Museum is open daily. General public admission is $10 for adults, $7 for students, and free for 18 and under (4 per adult). On Wednesdays from November to May, senior citizens are admitted at half-price. The Museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm May through October; from November through April, weekday hours are 10 am to 4 pm, and weekend hours are 10 am to 5 pm. Optional tours are available daily, beginning on the hour. Rockwell’s original Stockbridge studio, located on the Museum grounds, is open May through October. For more information, the public is invited to call 413-298-4100, ext. 220, or to visit the website at www.nrm.org.
The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge is dedicated to art appreciation and education through new scholarship that illuminates Rockwell’s unique contributions to art, society and popular culture. As a center devoted to the art of illustration, the Museum also exhibits the works of contemporary and past masters. Previous exhibitions at the museum have presented the work of Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, Rockwell Kent, Al Hirschfeld, Robert Weaver and others. Established in 1969, the Museum moved in 1993 to its present home, designed by renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern, which is situated on a 36-acre estate overlooking the Housatonic River. Following its presentation of Speak Softly and Carry a Beagle: The Art of Charles Schulz, the Museum will present John Held’s America: Flappers, the Jazz Age and Beyond (May 6 through September 8, 2002) and Norman Rockwell and the Artists of New Rochelle (May 18 through October 27, 2002).
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