A True Work of Art Takes at Least an Hour

Charles Schulz? Lucy van Pelt? Linus van Pelt? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, while watching videos presenting art tutorials online I was amazed at the quality of rapidly created drawings. Yet, I was reminded of a “Peanuts” comic strip from decades ago that claimed a genuine artwork cannot be created in less than one hour. Would you please help me to find this comic strip?

Quote Investigator: “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz published a strip about the creation of art on December 12, 1962. The strip depicted a disagreement between the sibling characters Linus and Lucy van Pelt. In the first panel, Linus complained that Lucy had torn up the picture of a horse which he had drawn. In the second panel, Lucy justified her actions by asserting that the drawing “had no artistic value”. Emphasis added to excerpt by QI: 1

Panel 3: (Linus) NO ARTISTIC VALUE? I WORKED FOR FORTY-FIVE MINUTES DRAWING THAT HORSE

Panel 4: (Lucy) A TRUE WORK OF ART TAKES AT LEAST AN HOUR!

The four panels are viewable on the GoComics 2 website here.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1972 a newspaper in Paterson, New Jersey reported that a local theater was presenting a work inspired by “Peanuts” with a title that nearly matched Lucy’s punchline: 3

The first play will be “A Real Work of Art Takes At Least An Hour,” a series of scenes based on the writings of Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip.

In 2007 a commenter in a discussion forum on the website of a well-known movie critic recalled the comic strip. The punchline specified was slightly inaccurate: 4

Linus has been working vigorously on his crayon-based art, and shows his latest creation to his sister, Lucy. Instead of commenting on the technique and effort, Lucy surprises her little brother by asking how long it took him to draw this. “45 minutes,” he replies.

Then Lucy bowls him over, declaring with absolute certainty: “Great art takes at least one hour!”

In 2009 the 1962 “Peanuts” strip appeared in many newspapers again when it was redistributed by the syndicator. 5

In conclusion, the joke about a lower limit on the length of time to create true artworks should be credited to Charles Schulz based on the 1962 citation.

(Great thanks to John Henderson whose inquiry on the Wombats mailing list on behalf of a colleague led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks to discussants John Cowan, Dennis Lien, Nichael Cramer, and Ivan Van Laningham. Cramer identified the comic strip containing the target quotation on the GoComics website.)

Notes:

  1. 1962 December 12, The Greenville News, (Four-panel “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz), Quote Page 23, Column 4, Greenville, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  2. Website: GoComics, Comic strip title: Peanuts, Comic strip author: Charles Schulz, Date of original distribution: December 12, 1962, Website description: GoComics, from Andrews McMeel Universal, is home to many popular comics and cartoons. It has a large catalog of syndicated newspaper strips, political cartoons and webcomics. (Accessed gocomics.com on July 9, 2019)
  3. 1972 August 5, The News (The Paterson News), Section: Morris County News, Pequannock Sets Theatre Under Stars, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Paterson, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)
  4. Website: Roger Ebert’s Journal, Section: Feedback: Gamers and Artists (Responses to “Games vs. Art: Ebert vs. Barker”), Date on website: July 23, 2007, Comment from: Grayson Towler of Longmont, Colorado, Website description: Website of well-known movie critic Roger Ebert (now deceased). (Accessed rogerebert.com on July 9, 2019) link
  5. 2009 December 9, The Messenger, (Four-panel “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz), Quote Page B9, Column 3, Madisonville, Kentucky. (Newspapers_com)