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Press Release - November 22, 2002
Good Grief, Stan Lee!Spider-Man Co-Creator Proves Authenticity Of Disputed "Peanuts" Painting
(Dallas, TX) - Someone may be in the doghouse over a disputed 1965 painting of beloved Peanuts characters, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. But Spider-Man co-creator, Stan Lee, says that despite a sudden web of controversy (including an article in today's New York Times) he can prove the unique painting's pedigree.
The controversy involves "the only known oil painting by the late cartoonist, Charles Schulz. It is a unique piece of 1960s Americana," according to John Petty, Director of Heritage Comics Auctions, Dallas, Texas.
The 20 by 30-inch "pop art" painting could easily be valued at $100,000 or more today, even though Stan Lee paid only $250 for it back in 1965.
It was offered by Heritage last month as part of a record setting $5 million auction of comic books, comic art and memorabilia (including the $1.68 million Nicolas Cage comic book collection). But the painting was not sold after the auctioneer received a last-minute allegation by the Charles Schulz estate that he did not paint it.
The painting's owner and consignor, Stan Lee, however, says he has proof Schulz created it himself for a 1965 USO (United Service Organizations) fund-raising event hosted by actress Joan Crawford, for which 32 comic strip artists created and donated unique works.
Lee fell in love with and purchased the painting at that USO event in New York City 37 years ago, and kept it in his personal collection since then.
The oil painting depicts a smiling Charlie Brown standing to the left of Snoopy's doghouse while Snoopy is prone on his back on the roof.
"Rendered in oils on Masonite, this painting is a terrific example of iconic 60s pop art. Schulz actually cut slats of wood and attached them with nails to the painting to create Snoopy's doghouse. Snoopy's ear is made of real felt," said Petty.
Lee is adamant: "I KNOW the painting is authentic as I personally attended the USO auction, and personally bid on it. Every piece was offered as an original work by a known comic strip artist. I can't believe that the USO or Charles Schulz would have been party to a hoax," he emphasized.
The Newspaper Comics Council sponsored the event, which took place at the World House Gallery in New York City, May 18 - 24, 1965. It attracted support and/or donations from cartoonist Charles Addams, New York Mayor Robert Wagner, producer David Merrick, Mr. & Mrs. Marshall Field, Mr. & Mrs. Ed Sullivan, Mr. & Mrs. John Hay Whitney, and many others.
Lee recalls that Schulz placed a fake can of "dog food" alongside the painting to add to the "pop art" sense of realism to its display at the auction.
"I also have a Polaroid photo of the painting I showed to Sparky (Schulz's nickname) at a cartoonist's function in 1988. He autographed the back of the photo to me, writing, 'To Stan with friendship. Charles Schulz.' Seems to me if the painting wasn't authentic he'd have said something about it, or, at least, not autographed the back of its photo!," Lee emphasized.
Heritage Chairman, James L. Halperin, says he has acquired additional documentation from the 1965 USO fund-raiser, including two contemporaneously printed magazine articles and a photograph of auction host, Joan Crawford, standing next to the painting.
The day before the painting was to be sold, Heritage Auctions received an e-mail from Edna Poehner, Administrative Assistant to Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates in Santa Rosa, California, claiming the artwork was not created by Schulz.
"According to Mr. Schulz's secretary at that time, Mr. Schulz's wife, Jean, and various people who worked with Mr. Schulz and know his art, this was definitely not done by him. He would have had to have painted it out behind the garage, packed and mailed it off himself, as she never saw or heard of any signs of such a project. He has never spoken of any kind of oil painting, in fact he often said that he wished he knew how to use oils," she wrote.
Despite the allegation by the Schulz estate, Heritage officials say they have no doubt about the authenticity because of its provenance. They politely point out that his widow may have no memory of it because the painting was created a full ten years before she married Schulz.
"Maybe Charles Schulz did not consider himself a good oil painter," Halperin added, "but on that point I must disagree with him. For what it is (i.e. a pop art painting), this is a very compelling piece, with an almost Van Gogh-like air to it. And we strongly believe the painting to be genuine."
So does cartoonist, Mort Walker, creator of the comic strips, Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois, who also attended and submitted artwork for the 1965 fund-raising auction. Walker recently was contacted by Lee, and responded immediately.
"In talking to several other cartoonists, the unanimous feeling is that the Schulz painting owned by Stan Lee is authentic. I knew 'Sparky' for 50 years and know he would never allow anyone else to do his artwork or sign it. He was very adamant about that," Walker stated in a letter to Halperin.
Heritage Comics Auctions officials, now satisfied with proof of the famous pedigree, plan to place the painting in a public sale next year.
"Out of respect for the administrators of the Charles Schulz Estate, we felt we had to make the Estate's reservations known to any prospective buyers, but honestly, we never really doubted the piece's provenance or pedigree," emphasized Heritage auction director Petty.
"Our consignor, Stan Lee, is universally regarded as the most important comic book writer of the 20th century. He is the creator or co-creator of Spider-Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and hundreds of other world-famous popular culture characters."
Heritage is the world's largest collectibles auctioneer with auction sales of more than $70 million in 2001, and expected auction sales of about $90 million for 2002.
For additional information, contact: Heritage Comics Auctions, 100 Highland Park Village, Second Floor, Dallas, TX 75205. Web: www.HeritageComics.com. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: (800) 872-6467.
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