The exhibit that opens Friday at the Palm Springs Desert Museum could be called Snoopy in Retrospect in recognition of the flop-eared beagle who came to life on Charles Schulz's drawing board--to become the most popular character in the Peanuts comic strip, followed daily by more than 100 million readers.
The traveling exhibition, "The Graphic Art of Charles Schulz"--which honors the 35th year of the cartoonist's continuing creation--will be making its only Southern California stop at the Desert Museum.
Prepared by the Oakland Museum, the exhibition is organized around frequent Schulz themes: philosophy, childhood, sports and timely topics. It includes 124 original drawings and preliminary pencil sketches of Peanuts characters dated 1950 to 1984. In addition, one strip will be displayed in 13 of the languages in which Peanuts is currently printed.
A Snoopy festival on Nov. 23 from noon to 4 p.m. will kick off the exhibition with a program of family entertainment featuring Jason Serinus, the whistling voice of Woodstock, animated Peanuts movies and a special appearance by Snoopy.
The Schulz retrospective joins the Desert Museum's continually changing natural-science exhibits which include dioramas depicting the cactus, wild flowers and other plants of the desert region around Palm Springs and the animals that make their home there.
In areas that are not watered, the land remains desert, studded with creosote, cat's claw, burro and brittle bush. It lacks the large cacti common in southern Arizona, but it is a place of quiet beauty during the winter months.
A host of fauna thrive in the area: antelope ground squirrels, pack rats, the desert hare, coyote and the kit fox, to name but a few. Among a variety of birds to be found are road runners, desert quail and cactus wrens.
Among the museum's collection of Indian artifacts are more than 1,000 North American Indian baskets primarily from the tribes of California and the Southwest.
Visitors may also want to tour the museum's Denney Western American Art Wing, containing one of the nation's finest collections of paintings of the West, and the Annenberg Art Wing, which presents major trends in contemporary art with an emphasis on California and Southwestern artists. Three sculpture gardens exhibit major 20th-Century sculpture. The museum's Annenberg Theater features internationally famed artists in the fields of classical music, ballet, chamber music and other performing arts.
The underlying motif of the Schulz exhibition, according to its sponsors, is to portray the contributions Schulz has made to American graphic arts, humor and folklore over the years. Charles Schulz sold his comic strip to United Features Syndicate when he was 26 years old. It appeared for the first time in 1950 with Charlie Brown, his dog Snoopy, Shermy and Patty. Other characters followed: Lucy, Linus and Schroeder, the budding pianist with an affinity for Beethoven. Some of the players were cast in bit parts while others received enough curtain calls for Schulz to award them more important roles. One is Woodstock, the tiny bird who is Snoopy's companion; another is Spike, Snoopy's mustachioed brother who leads a nomadic life among the coyotes and cacti in Needles, Calif.
Latest to come on the scene is Tapioca Pudding, a precocious, snooty and patronizing moppet who may be floored by Lucy before too many episodes elapse. But it is Snoopy who is the scene stealer, performing a variety of roles with consummate canine skill as a World War I aviator, hockey player, lawyer or frustrated novelist as he lives in his kaleidoscopic world of fantasy.
The art of Charles Schulz will be on view through Jan. 18, 1987. The Palm Springs Desert Museum is located at 101 Museum Road in the heart of Palm Springs. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and holidays. Admission is $3 for adults, $1.50 for children under 17, students and military personnel. Children under 8 accompanied by an adult are free. Information: (619) 325-7186.