Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari was born on December 14 —un- der Sagittarius, rising in Pisces—, in the town of San Fernando, Province of Buenos Aires, where he spent his childhood. His parents were Emilio Schulz Riga (Riga, Latvia, 1853 – Buenos Aires, 1925) and Agustina Solari (San Pietro di Roveretto, Italy, 1865 – Buenos Aires, 1958). At the age of seven he caught typhoid fever and the following year his only sister, Sara, died at the age of four from that disease. He went to primary school at the Fermy, a French school, where he studied French, Italian and Latin. In 1900 he was sent to the English School. He began studies in violin but, after suffering a riding accident, gave them up.
Because of his father’s work, the family moved to the capital city, Buenos Aires. They first lived on Juncal Street, then, they moved to Beruti Street, and in 1903, to the street of Mansilla, round the corner from what later was to become his definite home. Xul attended secondary school at the Colegio Nacional Sección Norte, located on the streets of Libertad and Juncal.
His father, an engineer, was appointed Head Technician of the Work- shops at the National Penitentiary in 1903, a position he was to keep for twenty years. Xul was not unfamiliar with the work of the prison, and there actually exists evidence that he helped to build a wall on the premises.
In March 1905 Xul began a degree course in architecture, but dropped out at the end of November, 1907.
In 1906 Xul bought his first piano. Music ran in the family, and Xul inherited a sound musical base from his grandfather, Alexander Schulz, a composer, and a zither from his father Emilio, which he learnt to play. The Archive of the Museo Xul Solar has several photos of Xul’s father in evening dress on the gala nights at the Colón Theater. Among the differ- ent scores in the archive, a preference for the compositions of Richard Wagner and Johann S. Bach is noticeable, particularly for their operas and symphonies. His extensive knowledge of music led him, years later, to modify the music notation system in order to create an easier one to learn and to play. He also made changes to the structure of a celesta, a harmonium, and a piano belonging to his wife, Lita. In his extensive oeuvre, many of the titles of his paintings make direct reference to mu- sic: San Danza [Holy Dance], Barreras melódicas [Melodious Barriers], Cinco melodies [Five Melodies], Coral Bach [Choral Bach], Impromptu de Chopin [Chopin Impromptu].
In 1906 he took up a habit which would endure to the end of his days:
cutting out pictures and articles from newspapers and sticking them on pages which he classified into different folders according to different themes of interest.
In 1908 Xul worked in the Municipality of Buenos Aires for a few months.
In the year commemorating the Centenary of the May Revolution, the comet Halley appeared in the skies over Buenos Aires, alarming the Argentines with the threat that it would crash into the Earth.
In poor health, Xul was suffering from persistent anemia.
He frequented the musical performances of the time and he introduced his friend Juan de Dios Filiberto to classical music. Filiberto recalled, years later, that unforgettable day when Xul took him to the Teatro Colón to hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Xul also established a friendship with Vicente Scaramuzza, professor of piano at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música de Buenos Aires [National Conservatory of Music of Buenos Aires], directed at the time by Alberto Williams.
Xul expressed in some of his writings that his vocation was split be- tween music and painting. He also claimed to have composed a dramatic musical poem and executed twelve paintings. This dichotomy of inclination was made manifest in his identity card in 1911, in which he declared himself to be both painter and musician.
Together with his friend Diego Luis Molinari, he began to plan a long awaited trip to Europe.
On Friday, April 5, he boarded an English cargo boat, the England Carrier, with a second class ticket. His first destination was London, where he stayed for a few days before traveling to Paris, and then on to Turin, where he stayed for several months. During this period Xul broadened his experience, met other artists, visited museums and art galleries, bookshops and libraries. He devoted himself to study, research, and Astrology, and attended meetings on philosophy and religion.
He stayed in Europe until 1924. He spent the summer and holidays at his mother’s family house in Zoagli, San Pietro di Roveretto, near Genoa. From there he traveled to several cities in Europe during World War I and in between the wars.
In London, he visited the British Museum where he bought A Short Guide to the American Antiquities in the British Museum and the Hand- book to the Ethnographical Collections.
In Turin he encountered the European avant-garde for the first time through the newly published Der Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider] Almanac. In a letter to his father he wrote about his interest in contemporary art and the progress that had been made in tempera. He wrote “there are horrible things for the bourgeois, paintings without nature, just lines and colors, like this for instance” and he sketched a Kandinsky in ink, adding “I’m extremely satisfied as I see how I, all on my own, without any external inspiration of any kind, have worked along the lines of what will be the dominant trend of higher art in the future”. The Blaue Reiter no longer looked to engraving, a German tradition which went back to Dürer, as the main medium, but to watercolor. The focus of the artist shifted from style to the use of color, the liberation from imitation, to the simplification of lines and the return to the primitive. In one of the corners of the letter Xul outlined the piece Entierro [Burial] which he executed in two versions, possibly in 1914 and in 1915.
In April Xul returned to London to meet his mother Agustina and his Aunt Clorinda —his ‘mamas’ as he called them— who had arrived from Buenos Aires. They stayed at the Court Hotel for a few days and then went to Paris where they visited the Louvre and saw the Russian Ballet. Then they departed for Zoagli. His ‘mamas’ returned to Argentina only eleven years later. On a postcard he wrote to his father “Paris is perhaps the most complete city. The ladies have been everywhere and already know much of it”. After a few months in Zoagli, Xul went back to Paris at the end of October, returning to Zoagli for the Christmas festivities.
At the beginning of the year he returned to Paris. The political atmosphere was confusing. On June 28 the Sarajevo attack took place and, in August, Germany declared war on France. In October he went back to Zoagli.
During this time, he produced his first works under the expressionist influence, which he executed in oil and tempera: Nido de fénices [Nest of Phoenixes] and his first version of Entierro [Burial].
In January, 1915 he traveled to Paris where he stayed for nine months. The Argentines who shared experiences with him in Paris, such as Alfredo Guttero and the musician Vicente Forte, remember him wrapped in a striped sky-blue and white poncho, next to Picasso and Modigliani, free, disinterested, elusive, strange, tender and mysterious.
He bought a harmonium, which he played, according to the testimony of the sculptor Luis Falcini, in “the hollow of a spiral staircase, a sort of landing where he could hardly move his long legs… he curled himself up in his box to make the chords sound…”.
He painted two variants in watercolor on the subject Anjos [Angels]; and produced several interpretations of Ofrenda Cuori [Heart Offering]. Influenced by symbolism, the works contain a deep mystic sense.
In July Xul traveled to Florence, where he remained until March 1917. He met Emilio Pettoruti (1892-1971) there. Together they visited several countries in Europe: Germany, Italy and France. They also began to prepare for their definite return to Argentina in 1924, with the idea of introducing a revolution in the arts. Through Pettoruti, he met the Italian artists Achille Lega, a Tuscan futurist, and Piero Marussig (1879-1937), who would later join the Novecento group. It was in Florence that Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari changed his name to Xul Solar, a pseudonym, with which he would sign his paintings from 1918 on.
As from 1916, Xul worked combining signs and symbols. He created a particular verbal and visual language which corresponded with his spiritual search. He painted Paisaje Bunti [Bunti Landscape].
In the exhibition Pettoruti held at the Gallería Gonnelli, he included Luce-Elevazione, a study of the portrait of Xul Solar.
In September he traveled to Milan and he worked at the Consulate for a few months. He returned to Florence in July 1918.
In a postcard to his father, he wrote without much attention to spelling but focusing on the Spanish phonetics: “Fervent wishes of happiness for you we have gathered at the longings to re-see you again after this exile already too long and maybe when will be the meeting back home!”.
He painted San Francisco.
Pinta San Francisco.
Xul went to Milan in July. He created, until around the 20s, a series of projects he called Bau [Buildings] or Estilos [Styles]. They were small imaginary architectures mounted on cardboard. These works had mystic and symbolic elements taken from different cultures, many of which had neogothic features resembling the architecture of cathedrals, such as the Milan Cathedral; others were closer to the sacred architecture of the Eastern temples. In this same series he made stage-sets and studies of fantastic style which included columns, capitals, and friezes. Other works, which he called “Decors”, consisting of jars, glasses and tapestries, were closer to the decorative arts. All together they embodied the new concepts of the Omega Workshops in London and which Xul surely knew of. These workshops proposed the union of architecture and the decorative arts, furniture design and household objects. Some of these works are Ritmos [Rythms], Proyecto [Project], Catedral [Cathedral], Cine [Cinema], Tapiz [Tapestry].
At the end of November peace was declared, putting an end to the World War I.
During 1919 he visited Milan on several occasions. In November he set himself up in London, where he stayed until May 1920. His correspondence of that time, as well as the extensive reading material he acquired, reveal his association with Theosophy and his interest in the world of the occult.
On May 26, Xul visited Milan and then went on to Venice to attend the Biennial in which his friend Pettoruti was exhibiting. A painting by Boris Grigoriew caught his attention and he made a sketch of it in his notebook. As a result of the first introduction of the avant-garde in the Biennial, Pettoruti wrote in pencil on his catalogue: “almost all influence Cubism, Futurism and whatever ends in ism…!”.
Xul held his first solo exhibition in Milan at the Galería Arte, showing seventy pieces, among which were San Francisco, Nido de fénices [Nest of Phoenixes], Anunciación [Annunciation], Al Lussemburgo [To the Luxemburg], Sol herido [The Wounded Sun], as well as his decors and architectures. Pettoruti wrote the text for the catalogue: “There is a strange mystery in these (works), his fantastic visions, where the imagination, free of any control from reality… seems to look into privileged spaces and uncover a whole world of ghosts and unknown impressions”. The exhibition, which Xul shared with the Italian sculptor, Arturo Martini, was on from November 27 to December 16.
At that time he began to incorporate into his paintings, letters, signs and words in neocriollo [Neo-Creole], an artificial language with roots in Spanish and Portuguese, the two most widely spoken languages in South America, intended as the language of communication among the peoples of Latin America. For Xul, the neocriollos were those who would redefine the relations between the American continent and Europe, by taking up the Pan-American culture.
In May he visited Rome, where Pettoruti exhibited his work at the Esposizione Nazionale della Cità di Roma, and at the end of the year he traveled to Germany. Piero Marussig made a portrait of him in exchange for a watercolor.
In October he attended the Münchener Kunstwerkstätten [Art and Decorative Arts Workshops in Munich] founded by Wilhelm von Debschitz, known for their celebrated methods and concepts. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner attended these workshops and Paul Klee studied and worked there. During his stay in Munich (1921-1923), Xul met Hans Reichel (a friend of Klee’s), his wife Olga and the young Elena Alberti, all three becoming an important nucleus in his circle of friends. He kept up a close correspondence with them for several years.
He painted Penitentes [Penitents], Alma das pirámides [Soul of the Pyramids], Cine [Cinema], Salve [Hail!], Dos caras [Two Faces], and Lago Monti [Lake Monti].
Xul was extremely creative in these years. The role of color and the simplification of lines and planes, the incorporation of letters and numbers corresponded to a new form of dealing with the image, suggesting a space with perspective and depth. Osvaldo Svanascini has drawn attention to the matureness of his painting and a phase of harmony where his quality as a colorist materializes. By using watercolor, he was able to work with transparencies, obtaining colors rich in tone and hue. He placed great value on translucence, attenuating the boundary between the outer and the inner, in a clearly spiritual attitude, such as in Ña diáfana [Lady Diaphanous] or in Tú y yo [You and I].
He added new signs to his paintings: flags, enigmatic inscriptions, letters and numbers that respond to a hidden symbolism, cabalistic and personal. His iconography was extensive and varied and, during this phase, he frequently depicted the serpent, which has been considered a symbol of wisdom by the hermetic brotherhoods since remote times. During the summer, Xul spent his vacations with Elena Alberti in an ancient monastery, a property of the family that had been turned into a hotel, near the city of Kelheim. While there, he was able to visit a number of different cities.
At the end of March 1923, Pettoruti held an exhibition at the Der Sturm gallery. Xul wrote the preface, which, in the end, was not published for lack of a translator. He wrote to his ‘mamas’: “Dear old loves: Emilio has gone to Berlin for his exhibition. He painted a great portrait of me all square. (It will have an effect in B. AS.)”. He was referring to Retrato de Xul Sol [Portrait of Xul Sol] that Pettoruti executed in 1920.
The idea of coming home together emerged in a postcard to his ‘mamas’: “we shall make a great hit”, that of taking the avant-garde to Argentina. The detonator was the official Argentine work sent to the Venice Biennial in 1922, which Pettoruti rated a botch, pompier and formalistic, distant from the new art movements in Europe. The return is a bet on the national roots, a Panamerican project which Xul expressed in his works Nana Watzin, Chaco, Tlaloc.
He traveled in January to Munich. In March, interested in anthroposophy, he attended Rudolf Steiner’s conferences in Stuttgart, taking detailed notes. The subject was related to education and art, life and morals, and language. He was interested in the philosophical, artistic, religious and spiritual focus of anthroposophy. He bought several of Steiner’s books which he took with him to Buenos Aires. In 1961 he dedicated a “grafía” (ideogram) to Steiner which read: “Rudolf Stainer/ Sabio/ Lume/ Norma/ San Norma/ Guru”. Translated from Neo-Creole it reads: “Rudolf Steiner, Man of Wisdom, Enlightened, Rule, Holy Rule, Guru”.
In December the newspaper La Razón published a review written by Xul: “Pettoruti y el desconcertante futurismo” [Pettoruti and the disconcerting Futurism], where he referred to his friend as the “only deserter in that artistic caravan that the countries of America send to Europe … the personality of a new race with ancestral visions”. He chose not to sign Xul Solar but used the pseudonym J. Ramón.
Xul painted Pegaso al sol [Pegasus in the Sun], Las cuatro [The Four], Jefa [Patroness], Juzgue [Judge], Hombre con sierpe [Man with Serpent] and Jefe de sierpes [Chief of Serpents].
The last exhibition Xul took part in while in Europe was the Exposition d’Art Américain-Latin organisée par La Maison de l’Amérique Latine et L’Académie International des Beaux-Arts, Musée Galliera in Paris. There were also works of Pettoruti, Horacio Butler, Pedro Blanes Viale, Pedro Figari and Annita Malfatti, among others. Xul exhibited three paintings: Cabeza [Head], Composición [Composition] and Mujer y serpiente [Woman and Serpent].
In May 1914, in Paris, Xul had met Aleister Crowley, “the Magician”, one of the main occultists of the XX Century. Ten years later, before leaving for Buenos Aires, Xul held interviews with Crowley for a month. The latter taught the painter how to systematize the way he had visions through 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, the legendary Book of Changes. San Signos [Holy Signs], one of Xul’s most important texts, was the result of Crowley’s teachings. In 1961 Xul executed a “grafía” of his portrait “Alistor Crowley, bon / Mui mori mastro/ Mui Mago” (translated from Neo-Creole it reads “Alisteir Crowley, Good/ Great Master of Moral/ Great Magician”). Xul bought several of his books and in the 30s began to translate part of Book Four.
After a month in Paris, Xul left for Hamburg, where he met Pettoruti, and returned to Argentina definitely. They set sail for Buenos Aires in June on the Vigo. Xul’s luggage included his paintings, frames he had made himself and two hundred twenty nine books he had bought, mostly in Germany. This collection of books clearly revealed Xul’s interests at the time: theosophy, anthroposophy, literature, philosophy, music, mystics, magic, and avant-garde, pre-Columbian and African art.
After his return to Argentina, Xul’s horizon expanded. To the art of painter, he added that of writer, translator and illustrator of notes.
In Buenos Aires he met Evar Méndez, pseudonym of Evaristo González (1888-1955), the director of the avant-garde publication Martín Fierro. Periódico quincenal de arte y crítica libre [Fortnightly Journal on Art and Independent Reviews]. Evar introduced Xul to the intellectual world. Although Martín Fierro had a literary inclination in those days, it did dedicate an important space to the plastic arts. Among the artists writing for the art section were Pettoruti, Norah Borges, Pedro Figari and Xul, the latter contributing with several notes.
Argentine society, at the time of his return, had changed in its search for the commingling of national traditions and European aesthetics. This was, precisely, the ultimate aim of the Martín Fierro. In this atmosphere, Xul met Jorge Luis Borges, Eduardo González Lanuza, Oliverio Girondo, Leopoldo Marechal, Norah Lange and Macedonio Fernández.
Within such a setting he began a long term friendship with Borges, sharing with him many interests and intellectual affinities: Eastern philosophy, literature, religion, mysticism, art and a passion for language. Borges recalled “having spent so many afternoons... in that magnificent library, perhaps one of the best libraries that I have ever seen in my life, with books in all languages”.
In October Xul’s review on Pettoruti, marking the opening of the painter’s solo exhibition at Galería Witcomb, was published in Martín Fierro. This was his first note in the periodical and he signed it “A. Xul Solar”. In December he took part in his first exhibition ‘back home’ in the collective show, Primer Salón Libre [First Free Salon], at Galería Witcomb in Buenos Aires.
Discouraged by life in Argentina, he wrote to his ‘mamas’: “since I’ve been here, I’ve made very little money, with a little drawing or two, badly paid, etc., in time it will get better, making decorations, etc. I’m now making a poster which I’ve been asked to produce, they promise to buy a little picture, etc”. The poster he was referring to was for magazine Proa, directed at the time by Borges, Brandán Caraffa and Ricardo Güiraldes.
Xul´s father died on April 21; his ‘mamas’ returned from Italy.
In November, he took part in the collective exhibition Primer Salón de Artistas Independientes [First Salon of Independent Artists], with four works: Kiosco [Kiosk], Hierodanza [Sacred Dance], Cabeza de inglés [English Head] and Figura [Figure].
In his essay “El idioma infinito” [The Infinite Language], Borges added a dedication to Xul: “These notes I dedicate to the great Xul Solar since he is not free of blame in their ideation”. After this first reference to his friend, Borges would make mention of him in several of his ensuing writings.
At this time Xul produced San Danza [Holy Dance], Doce escaleras [Twelve Ladders], País [Country], Pagoda, Ronda [Circle].
In June the Futurist Filippo T. Marinetti arrived in Argentina. To mark his visit, Amigos del Arte [Friends of Art] organized talks, conferences and the Exposición de Pintores Modernos [Exhibition of Modern Painters], in which Xul Solar, Emilio Pettoruti, Norah Borges, the decorator Pedro Illari and the architects Alberto Presbisch and Ernesto Vautier participated. The three painters were chosen because they were the closest to the European avant-garde. Xul exhibited eleven pieces among which were Cabeza y sierpe [Head and Serpent], Puerto [Port], Milicia [Militia], Ángel [Angel] and Pareja [Couple].
He exhibited in “La Peña” at the Café Tortoni. He made vignettes for the book El tamaño de mi esperanza [The Extent of My Hope] by Borges.
In January, Marechal traveled to Europe. Because of the strong friend- ship existing between them, Xul wrote him a farewell letter which was published in Martín Fierro. In May, he translated from German into Neo-Creole Algunos piensos cortos de Cristian Morgenstern [Some short thoughts by Cristian Morgenstern], a personal version of Stufen by the Expressionist writer.
He exhibited together with Norah Borges, Juan Del Prete, Héctor Basaldúa, Pedro Figari, Thibon de Libian and Quinquela Martín, among others, at the Primera Exposición Permanente de Arte Argentino [First Permanent Exhibition of Argentine Art] of the Salón Florida.
In October he once again exhibited at the Gran Feria de la Pintura Joven [Grand Fair of Young Painters] organized by Leonardo Estarico in Boliche de Arte [Art Bar].
The publication Revista de América, directed by Carlos Erro, featured a work of Xul’s on the cover page of its sixth number.
After moving several times from one porteño neighborhood to another, the family bought a house on Laprida Street 1214, which was to become his definite home, today the Museo Xul Solar.
He exhibited six watercolors at the 20 Exposición de Pintura y Escultura bajo los Auspicios del Ateneo Popular de La Boca [2nd Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture at the Ateneo Popular of La Boca]. He made six vignettes for El idioma de los argentinos [The Language of the Argentines] by Borges.
He returned to the San Signos, visions organized on each I Ching hexagram.
Between May 15 and 27, Xul held his second solo exhibition including seventy two pieces at Amigos del Arte. Atalaya, one of the most influential critics of the time, wrote: “His fantasy is nourished a little on its own and another little by Aztec and Indian mythology, perhaps Taoism is his greatest aspiration. That is, universal, cosmic mysticism of all times”. In September Xul participated in Nuevo Salón [New Salon], a collective exhibition, which later traveled to Rosario and La Plata. He was photographed together with several other artists for the newspaper La Prensa, for a note titled “Nuestros pintores” [Our Painters].
He had his first interviews, which coincided with his first solo exhibition. In the Almanaque de la Mujer [Woman’s Almanac], a publication in which Norah Borges and Silvina Ocampo collaborated, he signed the note “M.B., unidentified journalist”. In the newspaper La Nación, an interview by Ernesto Barreda was published, where Xul advanced that he was working on the reform of musical writing and language, a language he called Neo-Creole, a key element in the project for the union of Latin America.
The Keppler Lodge, of the Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua, founded by Arnold Krumm-Heller in Argentina, gave him the title of instructor. The documents evidencing this connection are his instructor’s certificate, the writing “Introducción al ritual Rosa Cruz” [Introduction to the Rose Cross ritual] sent to him by the Lodge and the Rose Cross magazine. He received the Revista mensual de ciencia Rosa-Cruz y estudios afines [Monthly Magazine of Rose-Cross Science and Related Studies] from 1929 to 1931.
During the 30s Xul expanded his activities and he collaborated with various cultural media. His friendship with Borges was manifest in the publications directed by the writer. Notes and translations by Xul appeared in the Revista Multicolor de los Sábados of the newspaper Crítica, in El Hogar, in Destiempo, and he did a translation for the Losada publishers. Halfway through the year he finished writing his San Signos or Libro del Cielo [Book of the Heavens], written in Neo-Creole, a text which he will continue to change until the late 50s.
In October he exhibited in the Salón de Pintores y Escultores Modernos [Modern Painters and Sculptors Salon] at Amigos del Arte. He showed nine works, among which were Bosque con trío [Wood with Trio], Ciudá noche [Night City], and Juzgue [Judge].
His interest in the occult and mysticism, a constant throughout his whole life, took on new connotations at this point, a period during which he became imbued with esoteric and spiritual subjects.
He exhibited in the Modern Painters Salon, organized by Amigos del Arte in May, showing: Bosqe i yogi [Wood and Yogi] Ciudá qe ángel se le va [Angel that Leaves the City], Ruinas con gente [Ruins with People], Mansierpe [Man-Serpent], among others. In September he exhibited at the Salón Centenario [Centenary Salon] in Montevideo.
He published for the first time in Neo-Creole, a series of visions under the title “Poema” [Poem], in Imán, a magazine edited by Elvira de Alvear in Paris.
In Azul. Revista de Ciencias y Letras, he published “Apuntes de neocriollo” [Notes on Neo-Creole], one of his visions dated December 11, 1925: “…The sky is formed with a diffuse pink and gold light, like a via lactea of fire. There goes my longing for the sky, so much so that I become the soul…”. He added a glossary at the end, with simple grammar rules to clarify the meaning of the terms used.
He exhibited in June 1932 at the Agrupación Artística Signo [Signo Artis- tic Group], directed by Leonardo Estarico, which at the time operated in the basement of the Hotel Castelar. In November he presented works in the Salón de Arte del Cincuentenario de La Plata [Art Salon of the 50th Anniversary of La Plata], at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes. Pettoruti was its director at the time. The Museum acquired the painting Palacios en Bría [Palaces in Bria].
In April, Signo organized an exhibition titled El violín de Ingres. Pintores que escriben y escritores que pintan [The Violin of Ingres. Painters that Write and Writers that Paint]. Personalities connected with the avant- garde took part. Xul presented “Poema”, written in Neo-Creole and published this time with some changes. In May he exhibited in the Salón de Pintores y Escultores Modernos [Modern Painters and Sculptors Salon] at Amigos del Arte. In September he took part in the Salón de Arte de La Plata [Art Salon of La Plata]. Emilio Pettoruti signed a review on Xul in Crisol: “He does not search for the ordinary truth, the one established as such; he looks for his own, which is the only truth of all artist. Painting of the spirit, of culture, and above all, of signs…”. Between 1933 and 1934 the magazine Revista Multicolor de los Sábados appeared, directed by Jorge Luis Borges and Ulises Petit de Murat. Xul contributed with several notes, translations and stories. He began with “Cuentos de Amazonas, de los Mosetenes y Guarayús. Primeras historias que se oyeron en este Continente” [Stories of the Amazon, the Mosetenes and Guarayús. First stories to be heard on this Continent].
He held several exhibitions that year. In January, at the Exposición Feria Mar del Plata. Gran Exposición de Arte. Salón de Dibujos, Acu- arelas, Grabados [Mar del Plata Exhibition Fair. Grand Exhibition of Art. Drawings, Watercolors, Engravings], organized by Amigos del Arte, he showed two watercolors, Bri Palacio and Bri paisaje. In May, at the Segundo Salón de Arte de La Plata [Second Art Salon of La Plata] and in the Salón de Pintores Modernos [Modern Painters Salon] at Amigos del Arte, he exhibited together with Emilio Pettoruti, Emilio Centurión, Raquel Forner and Raúl Soldi, among others.
In the newspaper Crítica, he wrote a review on the book Genhis Khan, emperador de todos los hombres [Genghis Khan, Emperor of All Men], by Harold Lamb, under the pseudonym “Fulano de Tal” and translated stories by Rudyard Kipling taken from the Just So Stories for Little Children for other numbers.
He bought a Dulcitone, a musical instrument similar to the piano. Later he would reform it in an attempt to simplify the way of learning and playing the instrument.
Xul exhibited in Flores en Florida [Flowers in Florida], Amigos del Arte, and in the Salón de Pintores Modernos [Modern Painters Salon].
In September he translated for Crítica. La Revista para los Hogares Argentinos. “Norteamérica a través de su prensa” [United States through its press] a series of classified ads published in the United States that showed the press as the reflection of the people. He translated a story by May Sinclair “Donde su fuego nunca se apaga” [Where Their Fire is Not Quenched] chosen by Borges for El Hogar.
He took part in the exhibition Salón de Pintura Organizada en Honor de los Delegados al Congreso Internacional de los P.E.N. Clubs [Salon of Paintings Organized in Honor of the Delegates of the International Congress of P.E.N. Clubs] organized by Amigos del Arte.
He published in Destiempo, a text edited by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, “Visión sobrel trilíneo” [Vision of the Trigram], another of his visions in Neo-Creole. At the end he added “(this is in Creol or Neocriollo, future language of the Continent)”. In the first number he contributed with two vignettes.
His work Vuel Villa [Flying City] is from this period. Around 1959 he wrote “Vuelvilla” [FlyingCity], based on the same subject: the flying city as a solution to the overpopulation of the world.
He met Lita (Micaela Cadenas, 1902-1988), later to become his wife, at the regular meetings organized at her home, where courses on Astrology were taught.
In June 1937 he exhibited at the Quinto Salón de Arte de La Plata, Comisión Provincial de Bellas Artes [V Art Salon of La Plata, Provincial Commission of Fine Arts], and in the IV0 Salón de Otoño [IV Fall Salon] at Amigos del Arte.
His works Mestizos de avión y gente [Half Breeds of Airplane and People] and Cuatro mestizos de avión y ciudad [Four Half Breeds of Airplane and City] were executed at this time.
Encouraged by Pettoruti he took part in the Exposición de Dibujos y Grabados de 34 Artistas Argentinos. Bajo los Auspicios del Instituto Cultural Argentino-Colombiano-Ecuatoriano-Venezolano [Exhibition of Drawings and Engravings of 34 Argentine Artists under the Auspices of the Argentine-Colombian-Ecuatorian-Venezuelan Institute of Culture], in Bogotá.
He translated from German Thomas Mann’s introduction to The Living Thoughts of Schopenhauer for the Losada publishers.
The Pan Klub, a project for a universal club, a gathering place for intellectuals and people sharing the same interests, was inaugurated at Xul’s home.
He created Ciudá lagui [City Lake], San Monte lejos [Holy Mountain Afar], Grafía antiga y Marina [Seascape].
In July, in his third solo exhibition, he showed twenty-five works in Room II at Amigos del Arte. He presented a new theme in his work: the grafías, which represent a new system of writing based on stenographic signs. The search for new written languages led him to the invention of this system, in which he had been working on since 1920. The critics were divided in opinion: they referred to Xul as the great interpreter of the symbolic in our civilization, or as overcharging with the esoteric his sense of the human existence. He exhibited Tlaloc, Pais Monti [Mountain Country], Texto nochi [Night Text], Zintas [Ribbons], Grafía [Writing], Otra Grafía [Another Writing], Ziudá Lagi [City Lake], Escena Teatri [Stage Set], among others.
For Kier Publishers he translated, from English, La Voz del Silencio [The Voice of the Silence], transcendental work by the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena P. Blavatsky.
Borges published “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, a tale of an imaginary world with a particular language where words were formed by adding prefixes and suffixes, a direct allusion to Xul and the interests for language they shared, especially Neo-Creole.
A new stage began in the style of his work. Blacks and whites are pre- dominant in his work. From this period are Fiordo [Fiord], Muros y escaleras [Walls and Staircases], Valle Hondo [Deep Valley].
During this period, Xul gave a series of lectures related to the same subject: “Algunos aspectos de Astrología” [Some aspects of Astrology] at Baba-Yaga, San Isidro; and at the Universidad Espiritualista Americana [American Spiritualist University] of Rosario, directed by his friend Santiago Bovisio. The first was titled “La Astrología mejor” [The Better Astrology] and, the following year, the series “Conceptos generales en la práctica de la Astrología” [General Concepts of the Practice of Astrology] and “Bhavo Chakro”.
In the Buenos Aires venue of GIDEE, Independent Groups for Esoteric Studies, of the Martinist Order, he lectured on the Theory and Practice of Astrosophy. As an active member in this order, under the name “Hermano Nulo” [Brother Nulo], he passed from one stage to another within the structure reaching the fifth stage. The purpose of Martinism is to convey spiritual teachings with an end to reaching the unknown superior being.
He continued his research into his new system of grafías. He wrote to Lita, “Keria cuidra”, about his neografías and developed the evolution of the strokes between consonants and vowels.
At the time, Xul re-created the traditional chess game and called it “pan chess, pan game or creole chess”, “a game requiring combinative skills, independent of chance, for a civilization more perfect in the intellectual, the scientific and the aesthetic, which shall create in this peace…”. A constructive game to solve problems of panlengua [Panlanguage], a new universal language with numerical and astrological roots, mono- syllabic, without grammar, i.e., written as it is pronounced.
On August 13, 1946, he married Lita, his disciple and collaborator on the Astrology courses of calle Laprida, at the Church Nuestra Señora del Valle de Buenos Aires.
He wrote a review of the book “De la cabaña al rascacielos” [From the Cabin to the Skyscraper] by Mario J. Buschiazzo, published in Los Ana- les de Buenos Aires [The Buenos Aires Annals], a magazine directed by Borges and Bioy Casares.
In the magazine Leoplán, Xul described Astrology as a magnificent science, with a practical sense in life because it allowed one to calculate the coming events. Xul once again presented pan chess as a game more complicated and more spiritual than chess. Borges recalled that Xul changed the rules constantly in his quest for perfection.
The changes were not limited to the intellectual area. With ingenuity and a sense of humor, and in his eagerness to remake and improve, he proposed changes in football: “Why play with one only ball, and not with three or four, and divide the field into six or twelve parallel sectors, like in rugby, and that each player wear a shirt with different letters so that words and phrases are formed?”.
He made vignettes for the book Un modelo para la muerte [A Model for Death], by B. Suárez Lynch, pseudonym of Borges and Bioy Casares, and for the magazine Los Anales de Buenos Aires.
After that year, Xul took some distance from Borges because of political differences, although they continued to maintain a close bond.
“I am world champion of a pan game that no one knows yet: pan chess. I am master of a writing that no one can read yet. I am creator of a new musical technique, of a musical ideogram that will allow, for instance, the piano to be studied in the third of the time it takes to learn today. I am creator of a universal language, panlengua, based on numbers and Astrology, which would contribute so much for a better understanding between the peoples of the world. I am the creator of Neocriollo, a language which calls out to the world of Latin America. I am the director of a theater that is not yet working…”. In this manner Xul introduced himself to the readers of the magazine Él. Revista mensual ilustrada para el hombre y el hogar [Him. Monthly illustrated magazine for man and the home].
In his quest to simplify the study of music, he modified Lita’s piano, so that it would be possible to play in a third of the time it really took to learn. To this end, he used the hexatonic scale, adding relief to the wooden keys in order to recognize them at the touch and he painted them so that each note would coincide with a color. Thus, the execution of a musical movement could be inspired by colors.
From July 18 to August 2, Xul held his fourth solo exhibition at Galería Samos. He showed thirty seven mystic landscapes dated between 1933 and 1949. Borges wrote in the prologue: “His paintings are documents of the ultra-earthly world, the metaphysical world, where the gods take the shape of the imagination that dreams them”.
He took part in the exhibition at SADE, together with other artists, to mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of Martín Fierro. Periódico quincenal de arte y crítica libre. XXV Aniversario. 1924-1949. At the end of September he gave the lecture “Usos nordbuddhistas adaptables a nuestra mentalidad” [Nord-buddhist uses adaptable to our disposition], at Galería Velázquez.
An astrological analysis of the racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio was published in the magazine Coche a la vista!... [Car in Sight!...] In the interview conducted by Carlos Marín, Xul was mentioned as “one of the most notable astrologers”.
That year, the Primer Congreso de la Lengua Guaraní-Tupí [First Congress of the Guaraní-Tupí Language] was organized in Montevideo by the Faculty of Humanities and Science of the University of Montevideo. Xul was invited by the organizers as language researcher and theorist. In August, the Church Nuestra Señora del Valle de Buenos Aires gave him the certificate and medal of the “Cofradía del Santísimo Sacramento” [Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament], a brotherhood that worships God in the form of the consecrated Host.
In September, Xul held his fifth solo exhibition, showing twenty four works at Galería Guión. He held another exhibition at the end of the year at Galería Bonino, Salón de Navidad 1951 [Christmas Salon 1951].
That year in a note published in Mundo Argentino [Argentine World], Xul defined himself: “I am… the creator of a language that the Latin American world is insistently calling for”. He defined the difference between Criol or Neocriollo, a language that could be auxiliary to Pan-America, and panlengua, a complementary language to be used between the three blocks: Pan-America, Pan-Europe and Pan-Asia.
In his pursuit of universal knowledge, during the ensuing years until the mid 50s, Xul executed a series of paintings oriented towards the study of the Cabala and Astrology. He developed the Tree of Life, which he called “the Pan-tree”, in a particular way. He searched for a way to adapt Astrology and the twelve zodiac signs to the Cabala, so he added another two Sefirot to the ten already established. The Tree of Life represents the universe (God) with ten ideal qualities that are joined by twenty-two paths that represent the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Xul modified it by incorporating his own terms, as well as astrological terms, planets and the zodiac signs. His final idea was always the same: to achieve universal wisdom, the infinite source of all knowledge.
During this year he held three exhibitions. In November at Galería de Arte Krayd, Pintores argentinos contemporáneos [Contemporary Argentine Painters]. At the end of the year, at Feria Navidad –Año Nuevo– Reyes [Christmas Fair –New Year- the Wise Men]. From the end of October to the beginning of March of the following year, he exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in the Exposición de la Pintura y la Escultura Argentina de Este Siglo [Argentine Painters and Sculptures of this Century], a show consisting of two hundred and seventy one Argentine painters.
From September 22 to October 7, he held his seventh solo exhibition; Pinties y Dibujos [Paintings and Drawings] in Room V at Galería Van Riel. He wrote a text for the catalogue, “Explica” [Explanation], an analysis of his plastic research, the Panbeldokie (universal aesthetic doctrine) or Estética [Aesthetics], and included a diagram to explain his theory. The or- der was based on the doctrine of the “temperaments” —air, earth, fire and water— which, modified and combined with the positive, negative and neutral polarities, resulted in the twelve zodiac signs. Already at the beginning of the 40s, Xul had advanced some of these ideas in “Auge escuelas plasti”, where he presented a synthesis of plastic language. Of the thirty seven works shown, most of them were about astrology, and as a novelty he used glass to support his oils.
Two publications interviewed Xul: Le Quotidien, and the magazine Hogar that, under the title “Xul Solar, pintor de símbolos efectivos” [Xul Solar, painter of effective symbols], published an extensive note where he defined his search for a better world, using astrology as the base to explain the world, humanity and religions. “I want my paintings to have effective symbols that give them the characteristics of writing, as well as the art values, with an end to defining and locating the elements of a complete and abstract art”.
He continued with his recreations and research, creating a puppet theatre for adults where he represented works of a religious and poetic tenor, and in which the characters personified the twelve astrologic signs. He made objects such as wood altars and reinterpreted the Tarot game. He added to each card its name in Neo-Creole, a sign which may belong to the zodiac or a planetary symbol, a number in the duodecimal base and a letter.
That year he painted a series of works related to astrological subjects: Zodíaco [Zodiac], Signos Zodiacales Impares y Signos Zodiacales Pares [Odd Zodiac Signs and Even Zodiac Signs], based on his own under- standing of the signs and their images. He did his astral chart as well as Lita’s, treating them as plastic compositions.
He depicted himself in the painting Desarrollo del Yi Ching [Development of the Yi Ching], in black and white tempera.
He bought the house “Li-Tao” on the River Luján, where he moved definitely at the end of the 50s, occasionally visiting the house at Laprida 1214. In his refuge in the Tigre, Xul devoted his time to painting, developing his panlengua and writing.
The acquisition of his new workshop inspired him to create the series Proyectos y Fachadas para casas en el Delta [Projects and Façades for Houses in the Delta]. These were architectonic projects with a language of their own, translated into structures of polychromatic planes to which he added symbols and letters.
He painted Gestación de Jesús [The Gestation of Jesus], a personal vision of the iconographic theme of The Annunciation.
In June 1957 he took part in the collective exhibition Pintura mágica [Magic Painting], organized by Galería Rubbers.
Under the title “Xul del Solar: un mago práctico” [Xul del Solar: A Practical Magician], the publication Wells. Noticias described him: “He is tall and slim, he dresses with simplicity and has an air of supreme elegance and spiritual hierarchy”.
If in other publication he defined himself as catrólico —someone who is catholic and astrologer at the same time—, in the magazine Mirador. Panorama de la Civilización Industrial, he added other adjectives to that definition. Under the title “Autómatas de la historia chica” [Automats of the Little History], he presented himself to the readers as “…painter, writer and little else. Duodecimal and catrólico (ca –cabalist, tró –astro- logic, li –liberal, co –coist or cooperator). Re-creator, non inventor and world champion of pan chess and other serious games that almost no one plays, father of a “pan language” that aspires to be perfect and that almost no one speaks, godfather to another common language without commoners; author of “grafías plastiútiles” that almost no one reads; exegete of twelve (+ one total) religions and philosophies that almost no one listens to. This seems negative, becomes (green) positive with an adverb: still, and an almost: rising”.
He expressed his interest in a better quality of life for humanity in a note in the magazine Lyra. In “Propuestas para más vida futura. Algo semitécnico sobre mejoras anatómicas y entes nuevos” [Proposals for a future life. Something semi-technical on anatomical improvements and new beings] he analyzed and described, with frank imagination, a series of future advances and “anatomic improvements” for a new man or for the formation of a “new being”. A presenter who called himself “Filántropos” introduced Xul saying: “The imagination has always preceded, in larger or smaller sets of stages, the scientific and technical realizations of mankind. In this age, which we can already call the era of artificial satellites, a fascinating incognito arises as to where the imagination of mankind will now fly. Let’s leave the answer to Xul Solar, who synthesizes art, science and magic in his vision of the future”. Three works of the years 35 and 36 illustrate the note: Duendes [Dwarfs], Mestizos de avión y gente [Half Breeds of Airplane and People] and a third, untitled.
In 1958 he wrote his last note in a cultural publication, the magazine Publicidad Argentina [Argentine Advertising]: “Una vieja forma paranoica de publicidad, el ‘Potlach’” [‘Potlach’, an old form of paranoid advertising], which approaches the anthropological study of the behavior of some tribes of North America.
In November his mother, Agustina Solari, died.
He wrote “Vuelvilla”, another text related to science and technology, where the main concept is the conquest of man in space, “the celestial Jerusalem” as he chose to call it, a self-sufficient city in outer space, with all the necessary facilities and activities that would enable man to live there. In 1958 he began to develop the idea of the “grafías plastiútiles” [plastiuseful writings] or “pensiformas” [thought-forms], paintings that are pictorial scripts, another code he evolved for the communication between people.
He exhibited paintings at the collective show 150 años de arte argentino [150 Years of Argentine Art], a collective exhibition marking the 150th Anniversary of the Argentine Independence, at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, whose director was Jorge Romero Brest.
On May 15, he was given the “certificate of Spiritual Baptism”, the initiation to Kriya Yoga, signed by Yogacharya and G.M. Cuaron. At the ceremony, Xul committed himself completely to being an example of ideals and to promoting the purposes of the institution. He translated from English into Neo-Creole El maestro dijo [The Master Said], written by the founder, Paramahansa Yogananda.
He sent his work to Río de Janeiro, in July 1961, for the exhibition Arte argentina contemporânea. Auspiciado pela Ambaixada da Republica Ar- gentina do Brasil [Contemporary Argentine Art. With the auspices of the Argentine Embassy in Brazil], held at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro.
The newspaper El Mundo published the interview “Xul Solar, el hombre increíble” [Xul Solar, The Incredible Man]. There he defined himself as painter, utopian by profession and he gave the journalist the exclusive news: the creation of five or six systems of plastic scripts, his “grafías plastiútiles”, a novel painting technique. As well as being aesthetic, this pictorial system was a way of communicating through ideograms, conveying a moral maxim in Neo-Creole which can only be read if the code is known. He invented seven different systems of writing. Some of his works were: Pax [Peace], Work, Love, Xamine todo retene lo bon [Ex- amine Everything Keep the Good] and the portraits of Rey Wen, Confucio [Confucius], Lao Tsé, JHS Buen Señor Cristo [JHS The Good Lord Jesus Christ], Rudolf Steiner, Aleister Crowley, and his wife Lita. As a novelty, these works were dated according to the duodecimal system governed by the zodiac.
In 1962 he participated in Art argentine actuel, a collective exhibition held at the Nationale d’Art Moderne in Paris.
Xul delivered the lecture “Conferencia sobre la lengua” [Conference on Language] at the Archivo General de la Nación [National Archives], an analysis of the Spanish language. Xul considered Spanish to be an imperfect language and he explained the need to further the search for a simpler way of communication among peoples. Among the changes he suggested, was the use of syllabic writing; all his proposals were the synthesis of the research he had been carrying out since the 20s.
On April 9 he died in his home in the Tigre. His hands held a rosary of 71 pieces carved out of wood, colored by Xul himself, with the cross of Caravaca, the same he depicted himself with in the work Desarrollo del I Ching, executed in 1953. His wife Lita was with him, according to whom, the artist “did not believe in death, for him there would always be a tomorrow”.
Borges gave a speech at the burial. On April 11 the newspaper La Nación published an obituary written by Manuel Mujica Láinez.
The exhibition planned for that year at Galería Riobóo was inaugurated on April 25 showing forty-five works, almost all “grafías”.
In October a retrospective exhibition was held at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Homenaje a Xul Solar 1887-1963 [Homage to Xul Solar 1886-1963], consisting of ninety three works. The prologue of the catalogue was written by Borges.
Teresa Tedín de Tognetti
Published in Xul Solar: visiones y revelaciones. Buenos Aires, Malba - Colección Constantini; São Paulo, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts; México, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, 2005-2006, p. 157-169