June 17, 1985 12:00 PM


Good Grief, Charlie Brown, it’s your 35th birthday! Aaugh! That’s the sort of thing Lucy might say is no big deal, but an important art museum has put up drawings of Charlie, Snoopy and their other friends on its walls. Titled “The Graphic Art of Charles Schulz,” it was organized by The Oakland Museum in California, 50 miles south of Schulz’s Santa Rosa studio. The show includes more than 100 completed drawings and preliminary pencil sketches of the delightful Peanuts gang from its first appearance in seven papers on Oct. 2, 1950. Mounted on brightly colored panels, the pen-and-ink drawings, which measure about seven by 24 inches for the daily strip and approximately 17 by 24 for the Sunday extravaganza, stand up at least as well on their own as they do when they appear each day in 2,000 newspapers around the world. They bear the scrutiny of magnification as works of Pop Art too, not just as bits of gentle philosophizing.

Schulz developed the economical graphic style for which he is noted partly as a tactic to catch a reader’s eye; Peanuts’ plentiful white space stands out on a newspaper page full of text or other denser cartoons. Today Schulz graphics are recognized universally: The zigzag shirt is indisputably Charlie Brown’s, the recumbent figure is, of course, Snoopy lolling atop his doghouse, the sharps and flats come from no other piano but Schroeder’s.

Those familiar symbols, as well as Lucy’s trademark crabbiness, Charlie Brown’s predictable failures and Snoopy’s frequent flights of fantasy, are chronicled in the show. Also included are such Peanuts memorabilia as a minuscule Snoopy pin that traveled to the moon with the Apollo 10 mission and a Braille edition of a Peanuts children’s book, Suppertime! (The exhibit catalog, with extensive and intriguing notes and critical essays by a variety of commentators, including Italian novelist Umberto Eco, is available for $14.95 from The Oakland Museum. 1000 Oak St., Oakland, Calif. 94607.)

Sponsored by United Media, Peanuts’ syndicator, The Graphic Art of Charles Schulz will be at the museum through the end of August. The beguiling retrospective will then travel to Albuquerque, N.Mex., Chicago, West Palm Beach, Fla., Evansville, Ind., Palm Springs, Calif., Brooklyn, N.Y., Huntsville, Ala., San Antonio and, finally, in 1988, to Minneapolis, Schulz’s hometown. The show amply demonstrates how marvelously the deftly self-effacing Schulz has lived up to and far surpassed his own definition of a cartoonist as “someone who has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.”

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