As I visit the Somerset House’s exhibition of Charles M. Schulz’s iconic comic strip creations, I can’t help but think that Schulz is the man responsible for making something of an icon out of the Outsider. Long after some divine power had laid the Outsider on Earth then left him to fend for himself, Schulz picked him up from the gutter, gave him a comfort blanket and a dog, and made him more than the hero of his cartoon strips – he made him cool! He made us fall in love with him! He made the whole world fall in love with him!

The exhibition takes us from the beginning of Schulz’s dabbling with drawing all the way through to the legacy he left behind. The first room deals with Schulz’s own youth. Surprisingly touching is the drawing of his dog Spike, which he sent to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and which appeared in Robert Ripley’s syndicated panel captioned "A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks, and razor blades” – a bizarre habit of Spike’s. 

Over the following rooms we are introduced to Snoopy and Charlie Brown as they gradually metamorphose into the characters we know and love. Over the 50 years that ‘Peanuts’ was published, Schulz drew close to 18,000 strips. A good selection of them are on display, and they battle to outdo each other in wisdom and wit. 

The last few rooms are dedicated to responses from artists worldwide who have been inspired by Schulz’s creations.  But the legacy of Schulz is of course too great to be contained within the exhibition – which is why it is naturally diverted into the gift shop. It could be said that it is a fault of our generation’s that we have to spend twenty pounds and drop a few tweets in order to align ourselves with a particular movement – yet there is something touching in the new generation clamouring for Charlie Brown bric-a-brac. And, judging by the number of families present, I have a feeling that Charlie Brown has achieved something akin to immortality. 

Good grief, Charlie Brown – you’ve made it! 

‘The Enduring Power of Peanuts’, Somerset House, closes in April 2019.