Man versed in all disciplines, curious of all enigmas, father of writings, languages, utopias, mythologies, guest of hell and heavens, chess player author and astrologist, perfect in indulgent irony and friendly generosity. Xul Solar is one of the most outstanding events of our epoch. There are minds which profess the truth, others indiscriminate abundance; the large creativity of Xul Solar does not exclude the strict honesty. His paintings are documents of ultra-terrain world, of metaphysical world in which gods take the form of the imagination of the ones dreaming. The passionate architecture, the happy colors, the many circumstantial details, the labyrinths, the dwarfs and angels unforgettably define this delicate and monumental art.
The taste of our time vacillates between the mere lineal preference, the emotive transcription and the realism of wall painters; Xul Solar renews, in his ambitious way of being modest, the mystic painting of the ones who do not see with physical eyes in the sacred world of Blake, Swedenborg, yoguis and bards.
* Prologue to the catalogue of the Xul Solar’s exhibition in the Samos Gallery, Buenos Aires, 1949.
Xul Solar offers a composite profile: avant-gardiste Janus, he produced, as early as 1915 (when painting in Argentina was mostly post-Impressionism, pompier symbolism or late realism à la Courbet), the subtly figurative designs of his water-colors; and, a few years later, the abstract space where floated imaginary creatures among hieroglyphs and inscriptions of esoteric origin. He was an enigmatic protagonist of the artistic renewal in Argentina, the performer of a one-man mise en scène where mystic and magical topics were transposed through a most refined pictorial technique, and, at the same time, a man involved in the challenges that modernity presented to art and culture.
In the nineteen twenties the Argentine avant-garde movement rotated around three axis: the open question about nationality and cultural heritage in a country whose demographic profile was dramatically changing due to the presence of thousands of immigrants; the relation to be established with Western art and literature; and the research of new formal means in order to draw a clear limit vis à vis the literary past, on one hand, and the contemporary realist and socialist aesthetics, on the other. Xul Solar, together with Jorge Luis Borges, Oliverio Girondo, Ricardo Güiraldes and Emilio Pettoruti, are the names that range in the very front of these battles of modernity. Criticism has read Xul Solar in the irrefutable key of his humorous and sophisticated use of religious mythologies, mystical traditions and astrology.(1) This essay will place him in the scene of the Argentine cultural debate.(2) Without overlooking the significance of his work in the unfolding of a fantastic imagination, I will try to read his paintings and inventions as a response to the three main questions that haunted Argentine avant-garde.
Language and origin
Xul Solar himself was of mixed origins: his father a German, Emilio Schulz, his mother an Italian, Agustina Solari.(3) From the very beginning, he chose to change his name, compounding and synthesizing his own origins and adopting a Spanish form of his mother's patronymic. The gesture signals one of the passionate debates of the period, about the European origins of Argentine racial blend and whether the preeminence of the social elite of hispanic origin should be vindicated in front of the immigrants that had arrived and continued arriving from all the corners in Europe. In his first books of poetry and his essays of the twenties and early thirties, Borges himself faces this issue: What does it really mean to be Argentinian? Who has acquired the rights to define the still unlimited field of Argentine culture?
Language was at stake, namely in a country where newly-arrived immigrants introduced their own languages in the cultural landscape of littoral cities as Buenos Aires. As Xul, Borges was inclined to play with the idea of artificial languages,(4) and these were for him not only a matter of philosophical and aesthetical invention, as he has shown in stories like "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", but also conveyed the sense of an endangered linguistic 'authenticity' that should be preserved by those that were not strict conservatives nor fanatic purists in these matters, but lawful heirs to the Argentine cultural patrimony. In fact, a line drawn by social class defined ownership and propriety over language; the partition included men and women of mixed European origins as long as these could not be traced down to the proletarian world of the working immigrants.
It is not farfetched, then, to read Xul Solar's and Borges' inventions of artificial languages as a double-faced programmatic response to a historical challenge: the abstract, free impulse of a playful invention, on one hand; the national concern with mixture an cross-breeding on the other. Xul worked on both directions: he invented 'neocriollo' that intended to be a panamerican language based on Latin roots and local expressions; and he also invented 'panlengua', one of the hundreds of Esperanto-like creations, very typical of the period, based on a simple syntax and an additive method of word-building. Both, 'neocriollo' and 'panlengua', could be thought as a symbolic alternative to the malaise risen by the modifications Spanish was suffering under the influence of words, images and sounds of remote foreign origins. Borges, who also felt the uneasiness of these changes, acknowledged Xul's precedence and influence on his own account of imaginary languages.
Fiction and the man
A novel, written by one of the prominent members of the avant-garde movement, Leopoldo Marechal, offers some clues that could help to reconstruct how Xul Solar was seen by his contemporaries. Adán Buenosayres, a Joyce-inspired fiction published in 1948, features Xul Solar under the most evident guise of the astrologer Schultze, member of a group of young friends (among whom a transparent figuration of Borges and of the author himself) that embark in a delirious expedition into the suburbs of Buenos Aires where they aim to discover the true sense of Argentine culture. The voyage ends in a descent to the Hades of a fantastic city, Cacodelphia, through whose spirals Schultze guides Adán Buenosayres, establishing himself as a comic Vergil. Both the excursion to the suburbs and the descent to Cacodelphia are heavily stressed by parodical discussions on the peculiar and inevitable mixture that produces Argentine culture.
Exploring the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the group of friends encounter a sort of comical monster that, according to Schultze-Xul, is the prefiguration of the future Argentine type. Paying a playful homage to Xul Solar's panamerican language, Marechal names him the 'Neocriollo' and describes him as the fantastic man-artifact compound that proliferates in Xul Solar's paintings:
"The form was completely naked; his trunk and abdomen were transparent as illuminated with X rays and the subtle design of his organs could be easily seen; he stood on one of his huge legs and bent the other [...] his head was surrounded by a radiant mist, his phosphorescent eyes revolved like spots placed on the extreme of two huge anthers; his mouth was a saxophone and his ears were two revolving funnels..."(5)
Many of Xul's paintings of this years offer a similar iconology: translucent planes for the bodies, technical forms mixed with stylised parts of the human anatomy, mechanical attributes. Through the disjunction of theses elements, Xul Solar presents his deliberate invention of fantastic creatures that inhabit a fantastic landscape and drive fantastic machines. The tribute to these inventions is quite obvious, but Marechal adds an ideological turn to his literary rendering of Xul's man-and-machine creatures. The future, he states in Adán Buenosayres, is seen through Xul's eyes and is therefore a humorous and, at the same time, serious extension of Xul's mythology.
The originality of these visual myths is so strong (an so new in Argentine painting) that no reader could be mistaken by the literary version of the 'Neocriollo': there he stood, an imaginary blend of disparate elements, as Argentine nationality was a cultural blend of heterogenous origins and heritages. The novel goes on, after the appearance of the optimistic monster, to show how Schultze-Xul is the only one in the group of friends able to translate the Neocriollo's vibrant although completely incomprehensible address to the expeditionaries: a sort of pedantic, prophetic poem that does not conceal its parodical use of the techniques of avant-garde literature.
Not only does Schultze-Xul recognize and understand a creature that looks very much like his own painted inventions, he also acts as guide of the group, leading his friends through the suburbs of Buenos Aires by means of his knowledge of the position of stars and planets. This prominent role is attributed to him throughout the novel and culminates when Schultze-Xul makes possible the descent to Hades-Cacodelphia: Schultze draws a magic circle in the midst of the pampas, writes the names of three cultural epitomes of nationality (that correspond to three literary characters: Santos Vega the gaucho defeated by progress; Juan Sin Ropa, the devilish incarnation of a new country based on capitalist relations; and Martín Fierro, the national hero sung in a nineteenth century poem and consecrated by the criollo elite at the turn of the century), recites a conjuration in (false) Hebrew and summons a feminine personification of a benevolent criollo devil who, after examining Schultze in several folkloric topics, opens a crack in the earth that leads to Hades.
The versatility in multiple fields of knowledge (i.e., magic, astrology, Argentine traditional lore) is attributed throughout the novel to Schultze-Xul and it is not incongruous with the cosmopolitanism that permeates the mixture of topics and myths in the paintings and inventions of the real Xul Solar. In fact, Xul is highly representative of the intellectual type that defined the direction of Argentine avant-garde in the twenties and thirties. He tackles the same problems that interested Borges and provides a perspective that has many common traits with the paradoxical 'national universalism' that can be found in Borges' first books of essays and in the short stories he published in 1935 under the hyperbolic title of Universal History of Infamy, where fiction grows from the translation of fables, anecdotes and exempla drawn from various literary and historical sources. Through these decades, for Borges as for Xul, criollismo and cosmopolitanism did not oppose in an unresolved contradiction, but, on the contrary, their blend offered an original solution to the open question about the profile of culture in a marginal country where diverse lays of heritage (criollo-hispanic, Western-European) were undergoing swift modifications under the disruptive pressure of other traditions that, impersonated by the immigrants, were not always judged as genteel and literate but more than often as menacing and coarse.
Beings, buildings and flags
Three motives persist in Xul Solar's paintings: fantastic beings, architecture and flags. All the three can be organised in a transcendent, mythical or theological interpretation, but this perspective which is very obvious and meets Xul's own claims, does not forbid a different (socio-cultural) reading of the mentioned motives. Along his extended career, Xul always painted complex, compound creatures: humanlike, dragonlike, birdlike, based on signs that evoke the imaginary of modern science fiction. His cosmogony needs them to present the mythological universe organised by a new and synchretic order, sustained by mathematical, astronomical and astrological rhythms. Xul's fantastic beings offer a non-naturalist, non-realistic solution to the representation of the human or animal body, a solution devised through the geometrical discipline imposed to all the elements of the picture.
The fantastic creatures respond to a curious blend of technical inspiration (mechanical patterns and direct quotations of helices, gear-like spirals or rectangles that remind the parts of a machine), and fragments of the human body designed through an avant-gardiste and primitivistic geometrization (oval hollow eyes, perfect circles as breasts, layers of rectangles that correspond to trunks and limbs). The creatures are, at the same time, poetical and technological, futuristic and mythical; they amalgam different temporalities corresponding to a mythical era and a modernist present.
Liquid, subtle, translucent colored planes intersect creating a space of representation that combines its abstract qualities with motives drawn from architecture or basic natural forms (as the sun, mountains, valleys, oceans and clouds). The collision of geometrical forms and the quotation of "natural" objects build a fantastic landscape doubling in a second series of translucent regular forms which often intersect to produce the fantastic creatures. Signs representing the map of astrological skies, or symbols that can be traced back to archaic Western and Eastern religions, crossed circles or arrows, float in this abstract-representative spaces, fraternising with fantastic flying machines, wind-propelled aerial cities, steam-boats and winged-animals. The jumble of the old and the very new is a typical feature of important lines of the European avant-garde that Xul knew well.(6) This trait of the avant-garde (clearly represented by Kandinsky) matches, in the case of Xul Solar, with the question that haunted contemporary Argentine culture: what to do with the past in the construction of the future, how to conjugate traditional elements in the new mixture of a modern culture that also bears the pressure of a very strong technical bias.(7)
Architectural motives were an evident presence in Xul Solar's paintings right to the end. Still in 1962, the palladian inspiration of his "Domus Aurea", although it alternates with cryptograms of magical and theological origin, shows up to which point the cityscape was an obsession that Xul shared with other artists of the Argentine avant-garde. But he did not feel, as Borges felt, the nostalgia for the past hispanic city, nor did he stressed, as Borges did, the popular criollo suburbs where the last houses stood in a close relation to the open pampas that still surrounded Buenos Aires at the beginning of the century.
Xul Solar's architectures quotes a moderate version of Modernism,(8) severely geometrical although brightly colored. His buildings are organised by a strict disposition of the volumes and even when he represents the modern city (which is often thought of not only as technical rationality but also as chaos), Xul imposes a complex but discernible order. He does not jumble buildings and fa çades to create the menacing (or enticing) image of the modern city; on the contrary, he studiously establishes a cityscape where sky-scrapers or modern square houses respond to an organic perspective. Architectural modernity means order and geometry, even in the fantastic spaces of Xul Solar's paintings.
At the same time, Xul is not an advocate of "white modernism": his buildings repel the uniformity of a sole color and, instead, present a plural, lively, heterogenous image of the city ultimately organised by form and not by color, by order and by subtle quotations of classic elements (as colonnades, stairs and arches). The unity of the design grants the possibility of deploying the diversity of color and detail. The idiom of architecture offered Xul a plastic organization of the surface (which was essential for a highly rational painter as he was) and, at the same time, a possibility of playing with differences and repetitions, a formula that suits particularly well not only his cityscapes but also the more abstract and fantastic landscapes where very simple geometrical volumes and surfaces, communicated through roads and bridges, present imaginary geographies marked by non-local, namely universal, icons.
Thus Xul Solar presents a visual counterpart of what, during the first half of this century, was the object of important discussion in Argentine essays and fictions: the plurality of modern city whether considered in its capacity to incorporate foreign and even exotic components or as the cluttered chaos produced by the combination of elements of different and even incompatible origins. The city was a symbolic battlefield for Argentine intellectuals and, in the case of Xul Solar, it represented the double image of a classical modernity planted in an imaginary space where graphisms of occultist, religious and magic origins could also be deployed.
Flags abound in Xul Solar's cityscapes and in his fantastic landscapes, especially in the twenties and early thirties. They crown the heads of his floating creatures, that also carry them on poles or painted on their garments; they decorate dragons' bodies or birds' wings; they float freely in abstract spaces; they are shown on the mast of boats and on the chimneys of ships, on the fa çades of buildings or on the platform of fantastic flying machines, painted on the walls of houses or hanging loosely from cords. Flags speak the language of nationality and their presence point to diversity as a central quality of Xul Solar's imaginary. Together with religious and magic signs (all type of crosses, Jewish stars, arrows, hieroglyphs, numbers and letters, cabalistic formulae, astrological notations), flags organize a universal space open to the exhibition of legitimate differences. As in the case of religions and myths, Xul's painting tends to incorporate and synthesise: invented or existing flags coexist as visual epithets of space and of the fantastic beings and artifacts that drift through it.
Flags and other signs stress the semiotic quality of Xul Solar's visual inventions. In the forties and fifties, his paintings invite to be considered as syntactically organised surfaces, where signs are combined in a structure that can be interpreted as a visual phrase. The transcendent quality of these paintings cannot be overlooked: signs produce meaning in a deliberate and highly allegorical way that legitimates a reading of Xul Solar's painting according to magic, religious and mythical values. In the "grafías" and objects (altars, retablos, modified chessboard and Tarot cards) all the painted elements are signs in the strictest sense; each of them means something not only in the overall structure of the painted surface but also in relation to a system that exists outside and independent of it. They represent the ultra-semiotic moment of Xul Solar's always highly semiotic painting. But they do not call for a literary rendition of their meaning; on the contrary, they present a visual allegory whose sense cannot be wholly attained through a verbal translation. Heavily laden with meaning, nevertheless Xul Solar's paintings never narrate. They are not tableaux that offer an occultist epic or a myth, but plastic organizations of allegorical elements. This might be the reason why Xul Solar's aesthetics can be appreciated independently of the mystics endeavors that doubtless were also a substantive base for his creative impulse.
The ideological materials that Xul Solar turned into the subject of his painting claim to be considered as the gist of his inspiration; however, as it is the case with Mondrian or Kandinsky, the strong syntactic organization of the painted surface justly demands at least as much attention. It sets the conditions of a formal reading of his art and also of a socio-cultural interpretation, placing Xul Solar in the history of Argentine painting as an original response to questions about nationality and the constitution of culture in a marginal country, that the avant-garde of the twenties and thirties had as a common and often obsessive preoccupation.
1. See: Rafael Squirru, 'Xul Solar, Esoteric Glimpses', in Mario H. Gradowczyk (ed.), Xul Solar: Collection of the Art Works of the Museum, Pan Klub Foundation, Xul Solar Museum (Buenos Aires) 1990; Mario Gradowczyk, 'Xul Solar, el umbral de otro cosmos', Artinf, XII, 64-65 (Buenos Aires) 1987; León Benarós, 'Símbolo, n úmero, magia en Xul Solar', Artinf, X, 52-53 (Buenos Aires) 1985; Carlos Areán, 'Xul Solar, surrealista argentino', Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, 524 (Madrid) 1994.
2. John King has traced the topics of this debate and pointed to its cultural importance in 'Xul Solar: Buenos Aires, modernity and utopia'.
3. Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari (Xul Solar) was born in a small town very near Buenos Aires in 1887. He attended English and French schools; in 1901, his family moved to Buenos Aires where, in 1906, he went to the University to study architecture. In 1912, he began a long period of travels abroad: London, Torino, Paris, Florence, the Italian seaside, M ünchen, Milano, where he presented his first exhibition in 1920. In 1924, he showed several paintings in Paris and returned to Argentina where he immediately got acquainted with the avant-garde group formed around the magazine Martín Fierro. In 1926, he organized an exhibition with Emilio Pettorutti and Norah Borges; a year later, with the same and Del Prete; in 1929, with Antonio Berni. From 1933 to 1939, Xul Solar showed his work in collective exhibitions in Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities and, in 1940, Amigos del Arte, a very important institution of the artistic field, organised an individual exhibition of his work. During the nineteen forties he gave lectures and courses on astrology and spiritualism. In 1948, his work was shown in the prestigious Galería Witcomb; in 1951, in Galería Bonino, and, in 1953, in Galería Van Riel. In 1954 he moved his atelier to the margins of the Río Luján on the Delta of the Paraná, near Buenos Aires; the house was especially designed by Xul Solar. He died in 1963. In 1977, the Mus ée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris organized an exhibition of 61 pictures, whose catalogue includes texts by Jorge Luis Borges and Aldo Pellegrini. Almost every year after his dead, Galería Rubbers and other institutions show part of Xul Solar's work in Buenos Aires. A remarkable collection can be visited in the Museo Xul Solar, Buenos Aires, where one of the members of the Pan Klub, Martha Rastelli de Caprioti, is extremely helpful to visitors and researchers.
4. For the best study on Xul's artificial languages, their ideological implications, and the coincidences with Borges, see Alfredo Rubione, 'Xul Solar: Utopía y vanguardia', Punto de Vista, X, 29 (Buenos Aires) 1987.
5. Leopoldo Marechal, Adán Buenosayres, Buenos Aires, Sudamericana, 1966 , p. 191.
6. See Katya García-Antón and Christopher Green (with interventions from Dawn Ades), 'The Architectures of Alejandro Xul Solar', where the links of the Argentine painter with the European avant-garde are carefully established.
7. I have traced the technological influences on Argentine culture of the period in La imaginación t écnica; sueños modernos de la cultura argentina, Nueva Visión (Buenos Aires) 1992.
8. This is convincingly proved by Katya García-Antón and Christopher Green, op. cit.
Publicado en el catálogo de la Exposición de Pintura Argentina, Museo de la Universidad de Oxford
© Borges Studies Online 14/04/01
© Beatriz Sarlo
How to cite this article:
Beatriz Sarlo. "Fantastic invention and cultural nationality: the case of Xul Solar-" Borges Studies Online. On line. J. L. Borges Center for Studies & Documentation. Internet: 14/04/01 (http://www.borges.pitt.edu/bsol/bsfi.php)
Xul Solar. Visiones y revelaciones. MALBA – Colección Costantini, Buenos Aires del 17 de junio al 15 de agosto de 2005. Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo del 17 de septiembre al 6 de noviembre de 2005.
Maria Lúcia Bastos Kern is professor at the Pontificia Universidade Católica de Rio Grande do Sul. She obtained her Doctorate at Université Paris I-Sorbonne, with the thesis Les origines de la peinture moderniste au Rio Grande do Sul (1981). She is the author of the book Arte argentina: tradição e modernidade (1996), together with articles and book chapters in specialized publications. She also coordinated the publication of the books América Latina: territorialidade e práticas artísticas (2002); As questões do sagrado na arte contemporânea da América Latina (1997), among others. She is a member and Vice President of the Brazilian Committee of Art History, the Brazilian Association of Art Critics and the National Association of Art Researchers. She is a I A Researcher of the CNPq (National Research Council) and a member of the Advisory Committee of Arts and of the Multidisciplinary Committee of the CNPq.
The first decades of the XXth century in Buenos Aires were marked by an intense intellectual debate over nationalism, cosmopolitism and modern art, against modernity in Argentina and the fast transformations of its society and culture. This debate was reflected in old and new jour- nals, which created a space to spread different concepts regarding the cultural activities in the country together with national and international leading movements. Many of these newspapers stood for the ideologies of different groups of intellectuals and political intervention strategies, while others established programs aiming at educating the public and structuring the modern art field, in opposition to the status quo. In this setting of multiple concepts and differences, Xul Solar played one of the leading roles in the Argentinean vanguard and consolidated modern art in the country, enduring resistance and criticism, while establishing nonetheless strategies in order to achieve this.
Based on the internal dynamics of the art field in Buenos Aires dur- ing the decade of 1920, this essay intends to discuss the proposals and counterproposals related to the construction of a modern nation and the resistance experienced by Xul Solar, to get his work legitimized by official bodies and also by alternate bodies of new artists1.
In 1912, Xul Solar traveled to Europe, where he pursued his artis- tic studies and encountered the leading movements. In doing so, he temporarily lived in several cities, like Paris, Turin, Florence, Milan and Munich. Before leaving Buenos Aires, he already produced paintings whose formal experimentations differed from those of dominating art at the time and also from the concepts in force within the leading institu- tions. During this period, the artist intimated with simbolist poetry2 and began his exploration of spirituality and the occult, working with shapes and symbols that were mystical in nature. This fact led him to encounter European mystics and to be initiated in Anthroposophy, Astrology and other beliefs, like many modern artists in Europe used to since the end of the XIXth century.
Xul differed from other Argentinean colleagues in that the artistic scene in Buenos Aires was chiefly dominated by works that were tied to national subjects, extolling the pampean landscapes and the gauchos in their rural activities, as one may observe in the paintings of Carlos Ripamonte, Cesáreo Quirós and Fernando Fader3. During the first two decades of the century, the official art institutions encouraged visual representations associated with national icons. In literature, some writ- ers leaned toward the spiritualism and Modernism of Rubén Darío, whereas in arts remnants of the French Impressionism survived, also present in the works of few national artists.
Along with the Independence Centennial (1910) and social, eco- nomic and cultural changes resulting from the immigration and mod- ernization processes in Argentina, Buenos Aires, the city at the center of the cultural expansion, became cosmopolitan and the nationalism increased. The optimism resulting from the expected progress did not last long, due to the migratory impact and social and political conflicts it fostered4. Meanwhile, through the arrival to the Argentinean capital of Spanish intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset (1916) and Eugenio D’Ors (1921), the Hispanic culture regained prestige, after a period of intense opposition to the colonists. The notion of new sensitivity, spread in conferences by Ortega y Gasset, was largely discussed and ap- plied in discourses by writers and artists in search of the aesthetic mo- dernity. On the other hand, D’Ors, the writer who led the Novecentism in Barcelona, proved the necessity of building the modernism based on national cultural roots5. Somehow, those two orientations had an influ- ence on the Argentinean art of the 20s.
Aside from the variety of visions of art supported by Spanish intel- lectuals, it must be stressed that the economic, social and numerical expansion of art scholars6 also generated an increase in the number of scholarship grantees abroad, who would head for France, Spain and Germany back in those years, and not only for Italy. The contact of artists with European plastic innovations allowed the absorption of different artistic concepts and practices, which consequently brought tensions inside the art field, shaped by relatively conservative institu- tions. During the 20s, as a rule the official institutions and art critics kept on preserving and upholding traditions and rural national subjects, using them to resist modernity.
Young artists sought new strategies to strengthen their positions, to legitimate them and communicate with big audiences. They cre- ated journals and private entities that subsequently contributed to the progressive process of professionalization and established specific guidelines to allow a relative autonomy of art and the art field. Mean- while, that program meant for a change was followed by advances and recessions. For instance, in 1915, a Society of Aquarellists, Pastelists and Engravers was created, intending to promote an annual exhibition, to publish a journal (The Engraving, 1916) and to popularize art through engravings. Another important initiative was that of Jorge Luis Borges, who, after returning from Spain, created the journal Prisma (1921-22), designed like a poster and illustrated by his sister Norah, where he pro- mulgated the Ultraism. The two siblings had taken part in the Spanish ultraist movement, exercising in an expressionist poetry and in a lyrical sense that Norah would cast in her drawings and paintings7. The dif- ferent kinds of poetry from Ultraism rapidly spread between artists in Buenos Aires, for they based, mainly, in dynamic and built structures. The group that formed around the movement presented itself as the “vanguard school” and was recognized as such by the journal Nosotros, which started publishing Borges texts and the Ultraism manifesto. The newspaper Atlántida (1923-24) published the articles of Julio de La Paz, where the author prepared the public and art critics, explaining literary Ultraism and Futurism 8. In 1924, the Association Amigos del Arte was created, gathering art- ists and writers, with the aim of promoting conferences, concerts and exhibitions, together with reflections over the aesthetic of modernism. This association, that promoted at the same time presentations of Fil- lippo Marinetti, Le Corbusier, Guillermo de Torre and Argentinean intel- lectuals, and exhibitions of modern artists, whether French, German or locals, also presented in its halls the works of nationalist official artists, like Fernando Fader’s paintings. Amigos del Arte made it possible for Eu- ropean intellectuals to transmit the directing ideas of contemporary arts, from Futurism/Novecento, Purism/Rational Architecture, to Ultraism.
That same year, the bimonthly publication Martín Fierro (1924-1927) appeared, whose name evoked Hernández book. Its objective was to establish a project of aesthetic renovation and integration of the scat- tered activities of new writers, artists and architects, in order to provide some unity to the modern movement that was to be implemented. The contributors, originally coming from Ultraism, assumed the function of actively supporting the new artistic practices and transmitting them to the public9. Already by the fourth issue of the journal, writers and artists reacted in a manifesto “against the ridiculous necessity of backing our intellectual nationalism, blowing up false values (…)” and highlighted the fact that they faced a “New Sensitivity” 10.
In order to support this renovation project, Martín Fierro relied on the revision of national tradition and cosmopolitism, thus attempting to build a new national identity restricted to the urban environment. Their mentors tried to promote union against the ethnic and cultural diversity that characterized the Argentinean society, hoping to solve that way the social conflicts generated by the strong wave of European immigrants. The Argentinean identity defended by Evar Méndez was defined in the city, for it “synthesized the country”, that is, the national culture and modernity.
Xul Solar, who was an active member of the group and contribu- tor to the journal Martín Fierro, also conceived the city as the locus of modernity by representing the new ways of social life in his paintings, filled with skyscrapers, planes, imaginary machines, etc. His city con- solidated by the presence of crowds and flags from different countries, revealing its cosmopolitism, though always connected with his mystic imagination by the inclusion of symbols from different beliefs. The artist perceived new technologies and modern machines, the way he perceived the rational architecture of great urban centers. Generally, his cities had no past, only present and projections in the future; this con- ception differed from that of his friend, Jorge Luis Borges. Despite the great intellectual affinity between them, Borges´s vision of Buenos Aires and its slums was more nostalgic. The writer constructed a city stage that was bound to the old quarters, where the remains of the rural envi- ronment were well demarcated, so as to establish a program for a future urban space and avoid their degradation. Borges focused the city from a retrospective angle, limited by Hispano-Creole memories. He gave a new function to the past by reflecting over its meaning and projecting into the future 11. In parallel with Borges´s process of reinventing the past and his dialog with occidental literature, other modern Argentin- ean writers constructed new styles of poetry based on the city, though directed toward the scientific advances, the mechanization of the con- temporary world and the future of Buenos Aires. For instance, these phenomenons fascinated Oliverio Girondo and Roberto Arlt. Based on these different visions of the city, we may infer that the group of Martín Fierro did not share the same concepts regarding modernity.
The city was the driving force behind the aesthetic modernity for it was a space that constantly evolved in very accelerated pace, encourag- ing new artistic perceptions together with the need of reconsidering the artistic practices.
From this urban locus, the art critics inside Martín Fierro and other vanguard publications in the 20s exerted the function of presenting a new reality and communicating to the public the innovations that were emerging in Europe and their purpose. That way, while building an opinion, they prepared the reception of the new plastic arts in vogue locally. In doing so, city pictures were added to the texts: pictures of rational architecture, machines and new technologies, along with re- productions of modern European art, so that the public could become aware of the shiftings occurring in the modern world and arts. Accord- ing to Evar Méndez, the lack of information was so serious that it led the journal publishers to reproduce the works of Seurat, André Lhote, Picasso, Rousseau, Chagall, Vlaminck, Marie Blanchard, Van Dongen, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, etc., together with those of the new Argentin- ean artists. 12.
Along with their educational concern, the journal board planned a State intervention in order to encourage the artistic development in the country 13, proposing a program to transform the traditional circuit of consecration for art professionals, aiming at the creation of other ac- cess strategies for young people, through contests and awards. Martín Fierro supported the artists who went to Europe in order to study, such as: Emilio Pettoruti, Hector Basaldúa, Aquiles Badi, Horacio Butler, Alfredo Bigatti, etc. These frequently absorbed the constructive aspects of the new art, drawing as a means of organizing and controlling sub- jectivity. The idea of constructing prevailed in post-war aesthetic and political discourses, as the basis for establishing order after the chaos. This constructive idea also prevailed in Ultraism.
The journal Proa reappeared in 1924, under the direction of Borges, Brandán Caraffa, Rojas Paz and Güiraldes; they outlined that its modern project wouldn’t differ, but rather adhere to the principle of construc- tion sought by one of Ultraism trends. When Ortega y Gasset published his ideas in La deshumanización del arte [The Dehumanization of Art] (1925), where he challenged the variety of vanguard movements, all dif- fering from each other, the abandon of apparent world representations and thus, their human sense, the leaders approved his ideas. 14.
Martín Fierro‘s group also planned the assertion of Argentinean art abroad, by circulating the journal in the leading European and Latin American centers, and by inviting foreign writers, artists, architects and art critics to collaborate, sending texts and pictures of their works. Nonetheless, the international consecration had to be achieved taking into account the cultural specifications of art in Argentina at the same time, so as a to create a distinction.
The Argentinean vanguard journals, such as Martín Fierro, Prisma and Proa, while spreading the new art, also played the role of making the young intellectual elite known, together with their ideas and projects for a modern nation. On the other hand, Revista de América (1924-1926), which was contemporary of Martín Fierro, tried to spread the intellectual and artistic production of young Americans, for they saw in them the future of the continent 15. The intellectual elite did not limit their con- tribution to modernist journals; indeed, they even collaborated with those journals that were considered as more traditional, with the aim of spreading their aesthetic projects 16.
Another strategy under the command of artists after art renovation was the foundation of the Salón de Artistas Independientes [Salon of Independent Artists] (1925), free of dogmatisms and rigid criteria, for it had the purpose of overcoming the traditional limitations of the Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes [National Salon of Fine Arts] and the art field. Thus, it contributed to the legitimization of the new generation of artists and to the diffusion of modern aesthetic concepts 17.
Many artists who studied in Europe during the 20s, when back in Buenos Aires, intended to make the European aesthetic innovations known, thus creating a public and other legitimization resorts. In 1929, for example, Alfredo Guttero created the Nuevo Salón [New Salon], an institution that was committed to the exhibition of modern art. This event occurred during three consecutive years. Aside from that initiative, the artists founded the Taller Libre de Arte Contemporáneo [Contemporary Art Free Workshop] in order to spread the new aesthetic concepts through education 18.
In parallel with the cultural politics applied to the establishment of aesthetic modernity, implemented by certain groups of artists, the of- ficial institutions upheld their resistance during the 20s to the new artistic structures and kept on acclaiming the style of paintings descending from Impressionism, bound to rural traditions. The established art critics defended the preservation of national representations and accused young artists of “imitating the Europeans”, who were “in vogue”, and sharing “the foreign recipe” as their chief concern 19.
In “Eurindia, Aesthetic essay based on the historical experience of American cultures” (1924), Ricardo Rojas proposed that the aesthetics be governed by laws allowing the continuity of tradition, for the pres- ervation of collective memory and national identity in Argentina, since these, in his opinion, would make possible that the autonomy of spirit and union be kept 20. This essay had a great repercussion in the country during the following two decades, becoming a reference for artists and architects. The official art critics also relied on this doctrinaire vision to consecrate art, which adjusted at that time to representations of national landscapes and traditional rural scenes. Thus, the critics asso- ciated with nationalism assumed a position that opposed the vanguard movements, mainly criticizing the works of Xul Solar, Raquel Forner, Horacio Butler, Victor Pissarro e Juan Del Prete. These were considered a menace to the established order, for they infringed the aesthetic as- sumptions in force.
Rojas discourse did not merely result from a resistance to moder- nity, but rather from his uneasiness toward plurality plus social and cultural tensions created by the immigration 21. The writer feared that the introduction of foreign ideas, values and habits could lead to the dissolution of the nation’s ideals, together with Argentinean traditions and social cohesion22. Rojas defended the solution of integrating the immigrants with native communities (gauchos and creoles of Spanish and indigenous origin).
In “Eurindia”, he tried to formulate the American aesthetic ideal according to the conciliation of the “indigenous emotion” and the “European technique”. Rojas believed this was the mission of art at that time. Since the “nationalist restoration” (1909)23, he recurrently pointed the need of providing a “historical awareness to population”, in order to homogenize the education and reduce the differences in origin. Still in that publication, Rojas observed there was no point in attacking the progress; rather, the foreign contribution had to be integrated into the national development. At that time, the writers Leopoldo Lugones and Manuel Gálvez were afraid of the menacing cultural idiosyncrasy due to the linguistic, cultural and ideological pressure of immigrants. Because of this, they became radical by casting the myth of an undisturbed race, so as to avoid cultural degradation.
To counter cultural tensions, new editions of José Hernández’ Martín Fierro (1926) and Leopoldo Lugones’ El payador were published, with the aim of reaffirming the collective memory and preserving the cultural union. The nationalist discourses of Lugones were largely criticized by writers from the journal Martín Fierro, who wouldn’t accept that curtailing vision.
Tensions were constant in the intellectual and artistic fields, mainly in the erudite literary field, whose writers produced critical texts related to serials, newspapers, journals and popular books, where stories were conceived as sentimental discourses in a language that was unnatural. In spite of that critical attitude, many of these erudite Argentinean writers also published their texts in left-wing newspapers, for the great mass of the population. Among them, some vanguard intellectuals stood out like Jorge Luis Borges, who participated in great newspapers such as: Crítica (1913) and El Mundo (1928). The social reform planned by intellectuals and artists had to emanate from mass education, which justified their interest in transmitting their texts and images through left-wing newspapers 24. The strategies conceived by different groups in connection with the education of the great mass of population, adding to the significant increase of publications and editorials, allowed the consolidation of a reading circuit and a cultural democratization 25.
The expansion of nationalism deeply affected the popular cultural field as well, through the creolism, which rescued the ancient rural habits and gave them value in opposition to city habits and new social behaviors 26. Gradually, the serials branded the urban space as chaotic and condemned the cosmopolitism because of the instability it generated in society. Subsequently, countless popular traditional centers appeared, where gauchos were rescued and acclaimed as heroes, and this aggravated the tensions with the intellectuals who were trying to recover the symbolic representations of the country and to recreate a collective memory, with the city as their scenery 27.
The spreading of nationalism by conservative elites revealed in the erudite field, as evidenced in Diana Weschler’s study: “Salón de Bel- las Artes, promotor de vocaciones nacionalistas (1920-1930)” [Salón de Bellas Artes, Promoter of Nationalist Vocations]. In this study, the author quantified genres and themes considered as opportune for na- tional representations and awards, allowing the perception of a policy aiming at the encouragement of patriotism 28.
The Gallery, like the Academy, the National Commission of Fine Arts and the established art critics, encouraged national art, making it official and well represented in numbers. The journal Nosotros conse- crated national art too, in spite of the fact that some of their contribu- tors’ discourses and works adjusted to the new styles of poetry. Though artists spread the art concepts of the European modernity, criticized the official institutions for their conservatism and had new resources created for the diffusion of their works, they continued taking part in national exhibitions, with the aim of providing more visibility to their art and legitimize it.
The nationalist concept of art critic, of the Salon Nacional, teaching institutions and artists, conditioned the preservation by official enti- ties of more conservative artistic practices. Consequently, the conflict settled inside the art field between renovation projects and those bound to tradition, between the former and left-wing groups of artists, such as Amigos del Pueblo and Boedo 29. These groups acted with the purpose of using art as a mechanism of political affiliation, identifying with national proletariat and refusing formal experiences, originated in European vanguards and directed, in their opinion, toward plastic aspects only. Boedo and Amigos Del Pueblo works were easy to seize, considered social causes and frequently used engravings. Therefore, another conflict pole emerged, giving rise to disputes and debates over art per se and art with a social purpose. However, it is worth noting that the ultimate purpose of these artists with different beliefs was national art, proceeding from different projects and ideological trends.
The political activity of artists evidenced the absence of autonomy of artistic practices and at the same time, the concept of art for social transformation forced them to keep certain representation structures associated to the apparent world, because the public would rapidly understand them. However, the diversity of projects in the art field allowed debates and aesthetic plurality. This was the art field Xul Solar found in 1924 when he returned from Europe with Pettoruti, where different groups of artists, institutions and ideological tensions were emerging. Xul and the members of Martín Fierro’s group struggled for the artistic renovation, spreading their ideas through manifestos, works and texts in journals and exhibitions. Soon after his arrival to Buenos Aires, Xul wrote a text for Martín Fierro30, about Emilio Pettoruti’s exhibition at Galería Witcomb (1868-1971), highlighting the modernity of his colleague’s works and his spiritual independence31. He also highlighted the modernist action of the creole vanguard, proving in doing so his awareness of the project aiming at the reformulation of Argentinean art and the role artists should play in it. Subsequently, Xul exhibited his watercolors at the I Salón Libre de Buenos Aires [First Free Salon in Buenos Aires] (1924), which were scarcely understood nor accepted by the public and art critics 32. Back then, people in Argentina were frequently unaware of European van- guard artistic practices and resisted to plastic innovations.
In spite of the lack of interest in his paintings, Xul was considered by art critic Alfredo Chiabra Acosta as the genius of Martín Fierro. He at- tempted to interpret his works on the occasion of the I Salón Libre [First Free Salon] 33, by affirming that in order to understand them one should trace in time the sacred streams of antique civilizations, “so as to invent something so elaborate yet so naively childish. We should remember our dreams and nightmares to decipher the enigma behind these paint- ings, or else recall our childhood“ 34. This reflection may have provoked among readers some uneasiness by supposing that, according to the author, Xul’s paintings could only be interpreted through opium con- sumption, which rendered even more difficult their acceptance and legitimization. In the same article, Acosta tried to grasp the reasons that led the artist to penetrate in the domains of the occult, justifying him at last by the necessity of returning to the origins of art among savages and “primitive races”; this phenomenon was largely present in European modern art. Thus, Xul’s explorations weren’t considered as an isolate case.
In 1929, the critic reviewed his former text and verified that during the new individual exhibition of the artist the praises to his works were numerous. “With an ideology of symbols, images and sounds, (…) imagi- nation and fine ironical intelligence; (…) a wisely colored poetry (…). His fantasy nurtures a bit on himself, a bit on mythology”. It’s “the universal cosmic mysticism of all times that shows in those watercolors (…)” 35.
In those days, Acosta was not affiliated to newspapers and modern aesthetic trends, despite being the art critic that showed more interest in Xul’s works and the one who identified his artistic independence 36.
Notwithstanding the fact that Xul Solar was an active member of Martín Fierro’s group, he partially stepped out of the predominant trend by combining the aesthetic modernity with mystical questions. In his paintings, he used archaic pre-Columbian symbols, whether national or American, and flags, that were distributed side by side with the signs of European modernity. This aesthetic conciliation between national and universal autochthonous and modern signs evidenced his concerns in connection with the necessity of combining different cultures and planning a Latin American union; these questions were discussed by intellectuals during the first two decades of the century, even by those of Martín Fierro’s group. In searching a linguistic solution to the problem of union, Xul created a Neo-Creole language that combined Portuguese and Spanish. His watercolors showed a different conception of the modern works that predominated in Argentina, since they resulted from his lyrical imagination and his mystical vision of the world. It is worth noting that his style avoided conventional representations, by penetrat- ing in the domain of the absolute, aiming at elucidating the cosmos and illuminating the characteristics of a secret and dark world, so that he could make possible people’s access into the unknown. Xul attempted to provide visibility of this world when he understood that the science couldn’t. In order to do so, he recovered antique beliefs and myths and remodeled them for the modern art field, with the purpose of revealing the cosmos in full 37. His mystical aspirations led him to an artistic prac- tice rich in ascendant symbols, evidencing the dualism of his thoughts and the recurrent search of the divine. The artist shifted from a symbol- ist practice, before his studies abroad, to a practice that approached the mystical trend of the German Expressionist group Blaue Reiter 38.
During the 20s, Xul’s works generated so much rejection as apa- thy from the public and critics, thus proving they didn’t admire them nor understand them in deep. Also, the absence of writings about his paintings by members of Martín Fierro’s group and other journals was almost complete.
The fact that Ernesto Vautier and Alberto Prebisch, architects and art critics inside Martín Fierro, used to cast in their articles art concep- tions differing from those of Xul, can partly explain this phenomenon. In their opinion, the admiration of the new beauty of machines provoked among artists a dynamic perception of objects, together with the desire of borrowing their plastic qualities, for the elaboration of an aesthetic that was conditioned by modern technicalities 39. They were trying to defend the conciliation between the creative, intellectual and scientific domains, seeking the integration and control of individuality, in order to build a modern society and symbolic systems to represent it, which would chiefly materialize in the city, its architecture and the relations between men and new technologies.
With such perspective, Prebisch and Vautier defended the notion that “beauty has always been the result of an analogical architectural process of shapes created by the spirit” 40. For them, “the classical Par- thenon and the contemporary car intimately responded to the same cre- ative process” 41. The relation between art and the construction of geo- metrical shapes was also present in Martín Fierro’s poetry: “we build, according to the architectural needs of a poem” 42. Both in the journal’s manifesto and art critic texts, we can observe the great exaltation of ma- chines and technology as signs of modernity, which best revealed the progress and anachronism of the official Argentinean art.
Despite the journal’s pluralist vision, the presence of texts from sev- eral Argentinean and European art critics, and articles on European art, these focused more on the works of modern Italian and French artists, yet predominantly on the great synthesis of that time. German art was practically ignored, except by the Italian art critic Sandro Piantanida, who believed that it had suffered a regression, because artists were “naturally inspired by mysticism and their imagination”, which led them to extoll the “fantastic” and the “religious grotesque”. The same critic also highlighted that this artistic expression was distant from the Latin spirit 43. When he analyzed the situation of contemporary Italian art, he noted that “Amidst the chaos (…) Italy rescued the traditional classical spirit (…) inherent to the nature of artists”, their vision of the world and “balance between sensitivity and the faculty of (…) expressing” 44. Thus, we may verify that his train of thought was based on the contemporary concepts of modern art, bound to classical traditions and subjectivity control. In his opinion, the new formal construction was the solution that young artists found in order to organize post-war European societ- ies, after a period of crisis and anarchy 45.
Regarding the Argentinean artist Xul Solar, he was mentioned sever- al times as a contributor and participant of Martín Fierro’s activities, but the art critic didn’t get to the point of making a deeper analysis of his works, even though his paintings were shown in exhibitions and galler- ies many times 46. For instance, when Alberto Prebisch commented on the exhibition at Amigos del Arte on the occasion of Marinetti’s visit to Buenos Aires in 1926, he mentioned Xul Solar, stating that his “art was mysterious and symbolic” 47. In the same issue, one of his paintings was shown on cover: this was Milicia [Militia], whose geometrical shapes, constructed in motion, dominated the masterpiece. Another two of his paintings appeared inside this issue: Angel and Escenario [Scenery], which followed the planimetry of the cover piece, though lacking the geometrical rigor defended by the aforementioned art critics. His paintings had a very personal character and resulted from his fantasies and intense research. The poetic features of his works transcended the uni- tary trend ideals; therefore, they didn’t adjust to the concepts of critics, or raise their interest.
By the time Pedro Blake published in Martín Fierro an article com- menting on Xul’s paintings exhibited at La Peña, he already stressed that Xul was the most personal and strange artist in Buenos Aires. “The extravagance of his fantasies (…) hide obscure metaphysical harmo- nies, constituting the most innocent and pure language of this great spirit living under the circle of stars” 48. Oliverio Girondo, the journal’s director, wrote on a subsequent oc- casion that even though there were multiple literary expressions in Mar- tín Fierro, on the other hand, in plastic arts and architecture there was a “clearly steady (…) direction”, following Le Corbusier ideas spread through L’Esprit Nouveau (1920-1925)49. This resulted from the presence during the 20s of several Argentinean artists and architects in Europe, including Prebisch and Vautier, who came into contact with rationalist notions of architecture partly based on classical tradition, machines, primary geometric volumes and personal expression control. Xul solar himself, when analyzing Pettoruti’s paintings in 1924, declared that modern art, in spite of its marked individualism, showed at that time “a well-defined trend based on the simplicity of resources, a clear and solid architecture, (…) a pure plastic nature which preserves and stresses the abstract meaning of lines, mass and color (…)”50. As we can see, he too highlighted some questions related to that period of vanguard retraction.
In spite of strategies developed toward renovation, both the new art critic as the artistic practices of the new generation revealed notions of a moderate modernity, which didn’t differ much from what was happening in Europe, where artists had abandoned the revolutionary style that preceded the World War I. During the conflict and afterwards, when liberal ideals began to be questioned, modern artists tried to exert a more effective social function and controlled the shifting process, as- suming a community role to the detriment of individualism, originality and the hermetic character of the vanguard art. While abandoning their discourses and expressions of breaking-off with tradition, many European artists tried to recover the figurative style and appealed to national symbolic representations, with the aim of regaining contact with the public and exerting control over modernity. Those strategies toward homogenization were established with the purpose of organizing the chaos generated by war, since intellectuals and artists believed that the plurality of new concepts and edification movements, hand by hand with the destruction of cultural traditions, would have contributed to the settlement of disorder.
Several art critics collaborating with local journals also spread the concept of modern art less radically. For instance, Julio Payró, an Argen- tinean art critic who lived in Brussels, used to send articles to La Nación newspaper (1924-27) and the journal Nosotros (1927-28), with the aim of instructing the public and transmitting concepts on the new European art. In 1928, he wrote an “Essay on Modern Plastic Art Trends”, where he stated that “today’s artists don’t reject the art from the past nor feel compelled to create something new”. However, Payró highlighted that the “modern school was violently opposed to the Impressionism” and that it sought “pure shapes”, moving away from the visible reality and exploring the plasticity. Once he verified that modernity was bound to tradition, he proposed the preservation of Cubism, as an innovat- ing movement destined to last by force of its plastic purity, harmony and vicinity to classical values of art 51. This proposal resulted from the synthesis produced by certain artists combining the classical tradition and Cézanne’s explorations, known in France as Le Retour à l’Ordre 52. Through drawings, pure geometric shapes and the recovery of the beau métier, French artists tried to reestablish order and reflect on the future of art and its social functions, after World War I and the crisis settled by Dadaism, which questioned the statute of art. At that time, when ex- acerbated nationalisms dominated the society, the aesthetic discourses in France, Germany and Italy were no more in opposition with the past; on the contrary, they aimed at recovering it and controlling modernity and subjective expressions.
The Retour à l’Ordre, in the context of L’Esprit Nouveau, correspond- ed to the rediscovery of the cultural inheritance refused by vanguards, to the classicism, when considering its sense of order and asceticism, which combined with the antiliberal thinking and the search of more stable values in Europe after the war 53. Martín Fierro’s architects and art critics who were in Paris when the aforementioned publication was released assimilated that conception. Likewise, the notions of order, rationality, the modern city and new technologies, in a society where industrialization was still incipient, supported the persuasive discourses of Argentinean critics in defense of aesthetic modernity. As for Xul So- lar, his vision of urban modernity had also a futurist projection, though unconnected with rigid aesthetic rules.
Julio Payró’s convictions identified with the aesthetic ideals of mod- erate Cubism and the discourses of Argentinean artists who studied in France during the 20s and were trying to introduce the new vision of art in the country, though not abandoning national traditions completely. Those artists wanted to create a new national identity free of nationalist radicalisms. This kind of thought was also followed by the art critic Elef Teriade, who wrote for the French journals L’Intransigeant and Cahiers d’Art, and for the newspaper La Nación. We may observe in the texts he would send from the second half of the 20s similar conceptions 54.
During that decade, both left-wing artists as more conservative fel- lows battled for nationalist objectives, resisting the new plastic offers. The pure structure and the autonomous art vindicated by intellectuals associated to Martín Fierro showed little results, due to the fact that they were partly bound to tradition and the edification of a new national identity.
In spite of the efforts and anticipation of aesthetic modernity par- tisans, the public’s acceptance of Emilio Pettoruti’s and Xul Solar’s paintings, for instance, was poor. In Pettoruti’s case, it is believed it may have been due to the fact that his works dealt with formal subjects, which the public ignored by the time of his first exhibitions in Buenos Aires. As for Xul’s paintings, they were created through the combina- tion of universal symbols with national and Latin American signs, and they were boosted by his mystical visions and the notion of sacred in art 55, which separated him from the members of Martín Fierro‘s group, and which may have rendered their interpretation difficult. Still, Xul’s concept of sacred didn’t differ much from those of national artists and partisans, for they all pretended to create through their works new ways of world organization. His ideas fitted in the plastic field while basing on religions, antique oriental philosophies and esoteric beliefs, com- bined with his personal fantasies and linguistic research; they were to move away from the artistic practices and predominant contemporary concepts, partly based on modern rationalism and the ideals of a con- trolled modernity.
In the 20s, Argentinean artists exhibited at the same time visual representation structures aiming at social denunciation, produced by leftwing partisans; others aiming at rural and urban national traditions, which were more conservative or modern; and finally those relating to internal questions, which were plastic in nature.
This plurality generated intense debates, where ideological and aesthetic questions combined, evidencing the almost null existence of the autonomy of art.
The discussion between intellectuals and artists over nationalism, cosmopolitanism and the purposes of art, led Argentinean modernity into the second half of the XXth century; recurrent, abounding in ideolog ical intentions, it interfered with the art field. More independent artists, like Xul Solar, faced difficulties in order to be accepted by the public, official entities and art critics. During his life, Xul didn’t participate in the Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes [National Salon of Fine Arts]; he didn’t receive any award or any kind of distinction for consecration.
The art critics, conditioned to restricted opinions on the aesthetic modernity, wouldn’t look for a better approach of Xul’s works, either. May be this was due to a lack of sensitiveness toward questions related to language, the individual, his fantasies, the archaism and mysticism; or maybe they weren’t prepared to penetrate Xul’s works. Probably they couldn’t observe or accept his projects for a modern nation and for Lat- in America: the former were based on symbolic representations resulting from cultural hybridism and the preservation of primitive, archaic traditions, side by side with modernity; the latter were to materialize through linguistic unity. After all, in order to interpret art, the critic must be interested and engaged in the task, since it becomes an extension of it and a new creation too.
Jorge Luis Borges, with whom Xul shared a close intellectual identi- fication, was apparently the best interpreter of his paintings and of his multiple creations. The writer once affirmed that he contributed to “the accomplishment of his (Xul’s) unavoidable destiny” 56. This revelation seems to prove, on the one hand, that Borges had understood Xul’s works better than art critics and the public at the time, by writing about them in greater extent, and on the other hand, that he used Xul’s inventions and myths in his literary texts. Borges poetry was inspired in his internal world, where he explored language, fantasies and archaic myths the way Xul did. Also, there was a very strong intellectual bond between the writer and the painter, together with a certain degree of complicity, which let Borges penetrate the essence of Xul’s works. Without that complicity, he wouldn’t have produced during the 30s and onwards countless articles and texts regarding Xul’s creations, nor understood them so well.
1. During his life, Xul Solar carried out only five individual ex- positions in Buenos Aires and participated in exhibits and col- lective presentations. However, after his death, his works were exhibited in countless presentations and retrospectives in his country and abroad. The huge number of posthumous events surrounding his paintings and creations partly evidences the resistance that the artist had to cope with in life, together with the institutional restrictions of the art field to his works. Fur- thermore, Xul did not receive any awards in life; moreover, a great deal of the monographs about his works were published after his death. 2. In connection with Symbolism, cf. Laura Malosetti Costa, Los primeros modernos, Buenos Aires, Fondo de Cultura Económico de Argentina, 2001. 3. The nationalism in arts and among intellectuals resulted from the fear of social disintegration as a consequence of the modernization process, the massive arrival of European mi- grants from 1891 to 1914 and the logical dramatic increase of population and urban space. Foreigners, in searching equality and social insertion, made political claims and strikes that fre- quently led to social conflicts. These tensions translated into the art field as well. 4. The fear of social disintegration amplified with social con- flicts led by labor unions, chiefly made up by immigrants, anarchists and socialists, who demanded greater political par- ticipation in national decisions and better working conditions. 5. From 1906 onwards, D’Ors led in Barcelona the moderniza- tion project known as Novecentism. This project was based on the return to Mediterranean Greco-Roman roots. He be- lieved that the great redeeming exploit of Cataluña would be the “discovery of the Mediterranean”, so as to “discover our Mediterranean traits” and assert them worldwide. Through the column he published in the newspaper La Veu de Cata- lunya since 1906, the “Glosari”, and his books Almanac dels noucentistes and La Ben Plantada (1911), D’Ors spread the the- oretical contributions of the “new” aesthetic. He considered that art, by assuming the collective expression, could exert an ethical, civic and constructive role, and prepare the future of the Catalan society. The modernization project, by identifying with the Catalan trend, aimed at edifying a new social order, as opposed to the decadent manifestations of Modernism. The artistic practices of Modernism and Symbolism were rejected due to their ornamental excesses, because of the individual- ism and internationalism they provoked in Catalan culture, and also because they were linked to the spiritual values of the Middle Ages. 6. At the beginning of the century, the art field in Argentina was structured in institutions created by the State, such as the Museum (1895), the Academy (1905) and the National Gallery of Fine Arts (1911). During the first two decades of the century, the Academy and the Gallery of Fine Arts proved to be com- mitted to the fostering of national art. The Gallery of Fine Arts was the official institution where artists could be legitimated and acclaimed. 7. The Ultraism rose as the first literary and artistic vanguard movement in Spain to oppose nationalism and regionalisms. It was created in Seville in 1919 and it spread to Madrid, following different visions: one of them was based on the Ger- man postwar Expressionism, others were based on the Ital- ian Futurism and on the Creationism and Constructivism of French poetry. “Ultra” stood for the dynamic sense this new art ought to be identified with. The publication Ultra gave room to artists seeking renovation, with no individual pur- poses, to produce their experiences. Schematic constructed bodies were molded out through poetry and visual arts, with the aim of reaching their primitive purity. After their stay in Switzerland (1914-1918), Jorge and Norah Borges introduced the expressionist poetry in Spain and in Buenos Aires after- wards. Maria Lúcia Bastos Kern, Arte argentina. Tradição e modernidade, Porto Alegre, Edipucrs, 1996, pp. 125-139. 8. Nosotros was the leading publication of the Centennial generation, which published in December 1921 the afore- mentioned manifesto. The newspaper La Nación announced Alberto Candiotti’s book, where he dealt with practically all European vanguard movements since the beginning of the century. Cf. Patricia Artundo, “Alfredo Guttero en Buenos Ai- res 1927-1932”, in Arte argentino del siglo XX, Buenos Aires, Fundación para la Investigación del Arte Argentino, 1997, p.16 9. Francine Masiello, Lenguage e ideologia, Buenos Aires, Ha- chette, 1986, pp. 62-71. 10. Martín Fierro 4, 15 May 1924. 11. Beatriz Sarlo, Borges, un escritor en las orillas, Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 2003, pp. 34-38. 12. M. Alcalá y J. Schwartz, Vanguardas argentinas anos 20, São Paulo, Iluminuras, 1992, p. 193. 13. B. Sarlo, “Vanguardia y criollismo: la aventura de Martín Fi- erro”, in C. Altamiro and B. Sarlo, Ensayos argentinos, Buenos Aires, CEDEAL, 1983, p. 141. 14. José Ortega y Gasset, “La deshumanización del arte”, Re- vista Ocidente, Madrid, 1970. p.52. Norah Borges and André Lhote were distinguished in Proa, among others, as exem- plary. 15. Publication under the direction of Carlos Alberto Erro, limited to six issues, that counted with the collaboration of illustrators such as: Xul Solar, Norah Borges, Raquel Forner and Leónidas de Vedia. 16. Other publications circulated in Buenos Aires, such as: Inicial, Valoraciones, Babel, Notícias Literárias, El Dorado, Los Pensadores, etc. 17. The following were promoted: the Salón de Artistas Mod- ernos [Salon of Modern Artists], in 1926, when Marinetti vis- ited Buenos Aires; the Salón de Artistas Argentinos [Salon of Argentinean Artists], in La Peña, in 1928; and the Nuevo Salón [New Salon], from 1929 to 1932. 18. The following artists participated in the Workshop: A. Gutero, Raquel Forner, Domingos Neira, A. Bigatti. 19. Diana Wechsler, “Algunas consideraciones acerca de la vanguardia en el campo de Buenos Aires”, in Estudios de In- vestigaciones, Buenos Aires, Instituto de Teoria e Historia del Arte “Julio E. Payró” 2, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UBA, 1989, p. 43. 20. Ibid., pp. 91-99. 21. Between 1891 and 1914, Argentina absorbed 17% of Eu- ropean migration, chiefly made up of Italians and Spanish, who rather headed for urban centers, while French, English and Belgians would generally establish in rural villages. The population, estimated to consist of 2.492.000 inhabitants in 1800, had climbed to 7.885.000 by 1914. Luis A. Romero, Breve história contemporánea de la Argentina, Buenos Aires, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994, p. 27. 22. He would label immigrants as poorly educated and mi- serly, because their only purpose was to individually enrich, instead of sharing collective interests. 23. There, Rojas condemned the cosmopolitism of foreigners, together with their individualism and indifference toward pub- lic affaires. Cf. M. I. Barbero and F. Devoto, Los nacionalistas, Buenos Aires, Cedeal, 1983, pp. 18-21. 24. Cf. Beatriz Sarlo, Borges, un escritor en las orillas, op. cit., pp. 36-37. 25. Beatriz Sarlo, Imaginary landscapes, op. cit., p. 206. 26. The notions of modernity and cosmopolitism, in Buenos Aires, were initially stressed by the intellectuals who sup- ported Ultraism, and subsequently, by Martín Fierro writers. 27. Marta Penhos, “Nativos en el salón. Artes plásticas e identidad en la primera mitad del siglo XX”, in Penhos and Wechsler (coord.), Tras los pasos de la norma, Buenos Aires, Jilguero, 1999, p. 113. 28. D. Wechsler, op. cit., pp. 101. 1921-112 paintings: 52 land- scapes, 9 portraits, 3 nudes, 3 animals and others (28). 1924 -117 paintings: 54 landscapes, 11 portraits, 6 nudes, 2 animals, 4 still lifes and others (30). 1928-254 paintings: 83 landscapes, 24 portraits, 12 nudes, 17 still lifes and others (54). The first awards between 1920 and 1930 were distributed as follows: 4 landscapes, 2 portraits, 1 animal, 2 nudes and 1 working dinner. Data evidences the increase in the number of exposed paint- ings and the mastering of landscapes. Still lifes appear in 1924 and the number of nudes rises; both subjects were opportune for plastic exploration and release from the narrative purpose of painting. The landscapes could also represent a means for new explorations, if they weren’t marked by certain nationalism. 29. The Boedo group rose with the journal Pensadores, created in 1922, for many of its members were also affiliated to the Communist Party and defended the Socialist Realism. 30. Martín Fierro 10/11, set-oct. 1924, n./p. The text was well il- lustrated by paintings of Pettoruti and the author emphasized that these would give rise to the art of the future. 31. Xul Solar, “Pettoruti”, Martín Fierro 10/11, set-oct. 1924. n./p. The works of Pettoruti shown in that exhibit (1924) were extremely criticized, inducing Xul to write a very didactic text on modern painting. 32. Xul developed an extremely personal style of painting, which led him to stand aside from the groups of artists who studied in France and Italy, whose works were rather linked to modernity control trends in those countries, such as Retour à l’Ordre and Novecento. Success came faster for these artists, for they reconciled modern signs with tradition, and in doing so they didn’t break up with national representations. On the contrary, Xul managed to build up a new art out of that reconciliation. 33. Performed at Galería Witcomb (1924), casting official and modern art works. That critic’s pen name was “Atalaya” and he worked as a writer for several journals, such as: Acción de Arte, Claridad and La Protesta. 34. Alfredo Chiabra Acosta, Críticas de arte argentino, 1920-1932, Buenos Aires, Gleizer, 1934, pp. 83-84. In 1929, Xul’s works were analyzed in “Reflexiones sobre una exposición en los Amigos del Arte”, in La Razón, May 22nd 1929, p. 1. 35. Chiabra Acosta, op. cit., p. 311. 36. Even before returning from Europe to Buenos Aires, Xul was conscious of the difficulties he would have to face in the city’s art field and he also knew that his works had been con- sidered unbalanced in the article “Decadencia del arte en la época actual”, in La Razón, 1921. Mario Gradowczyk, Alejan- dro Xul Solar, Buenos Aires, Alba / Fundación Bunge y Born, 1994, p. 106. 37. In Europe, Xul came into contact with the German Expres- sionism and esoteric beliefs, thus accentuating his interest in the occult. He sought philosophical and religious ground through Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, a dissi- dent branch of theosophy; through Emanuel Swedenborg and also through astrology. 38. As Jorge Luis Borges phrased it so well, Xul didn’t imi- tate, but rather showed an essential and deep affinity with the German Jewish Expressionism. In J.L. Borges, Homenaje a Xul Solar, Buenos Aires, MNBA, July 17th 1968, p.2. 39. A. Prebisch, Marinetti en los Amigos del Arte, in Martín Fi- erro, July 8, 1926, n./p. Both art critics were the first to spread in Argentina the ideas of Le Corbusier, exposed in the journal L’Esprit Nouveau, and those of the Bauhaus. 40. A. Prebisch and E. Vautier, “Fantasia y Cálculo”, in Martín Fierro, no. 20, August 5, 1925, n./p. 41. Ibid. 42. J. L. Borges et al., Boedo y Florida, Buenos Aires, CEAL, 1980, p. 19. 43. S. Piantanida, “Descubrimiento del Cubismo II”, in Martín Fierro, January 24, 1925, n./p. 44. Ibid. Pettoruti also extolled the new Italian art, linked to the national classical tradition, in the journal Crítica. 45. Ibid. 46. Exhibitions performed in Buenos Aires and participation in them, during the 20s: 1924, I Salón Libre [First Free Salon]; 1925, Salón de los Independientes [Salon of the Independent]; 1926, Exposición de Pintores Modernos en Amigos del Arte, Salón de los Independientes [Exhibition of Modern Painters in Amigos del Arte, Salon of the Independent], Exhibition in La Peña; 1927, Salón Florida [Florida Salon]; 1929, Exposición Xul Solar [Xul Solar’s Salon], in Amigos del Arte; 1930, Salón de Pintores y Escultores Modernos [Salon of Painters and Mod- ern Sculptors]. As we can see, Xul did not participate in the Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes [National Salon of Fine Arts], which was the highest recognition event in Buenos Aires. 47. A. Prebisch, “Marinetti en los Amigos del Arte”, in Martín Fierro, July 8, 1926, n./p. 48. P. Blake, “Exposición de pintura y escultura en “La Peña”, in Martín Fierro, 8 de julio de 1926, n./p. 49. Martín Fierro, Buenos Aires, 1949, pp. 47, 50. As a rule, the texts on art and architecture were written by Prebisch and Vautier. 50. Xul Solar, “Pettoruti”, loc.cit. 51. Diana Weschsler, “Crítica de arte en la década del veinte. Los textos críticos de Julio E. Payró (1924-1930)”, in Estudios de Investigaciones, ob.cit., n04, 1991, pp. 41-42. 52. André Lhote, a nationalist artist and art critic, used to refer to this pictorial practice as French Cubism, as opposed to the Cubism of Juan Gris and Picasso, who were considered as mé- tèques, and the Neocubism of other artists. 53. Françoise Ducros, “Le purisme et les compromis d’une peinture moderne”, in L’Esprit Nouveau, Paris, Centre Culturel Suisse, 1987, p. 68. The publication L’Esprit Nouveau was cre- ated by Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. 54. At this time, the art critic Camille Mauclair used to send texts for publication in the same journal, reinforcing though the official conservative concepts. 55. In art “sacred” means “that which is separate, put aside”, differing from “secular”, standing above it and allowing artists to try and reach the absolute, and reorganize the cosmos, out of their works. 56. J. L. Borges, Obras completas, Buenos Aires, Emecé, vol. 3, 1989, p. 444. In M. Gradowczky, Xul e Borges. A linguagem de dois gumes, São Paulo, Fund. Memorial da América Latina, 2001, p. 8
Xul Solar. Visiones y Revelaciones. MALBA Colección Costantini, Buenos Aires del 17 de junio al 15 de agosto de 2005. Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo del 17 de septiembre al 6 de noviembre de 2005.
Cintia Cristiá was awarded her Doctorate in History of Music and Musicology from the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV, with her thesis, Xul Solar y la música, presented in December 2004. She has given conferences in Argentina and The Netherlands, presented papers in important congresses and given seminars in her specialty at Universities in London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Paris. She received a distinction in the Primer Concurso Latinoamericano de Musicología “Gourmet Musical” (2002), and her essays have been published in Argentina, France and Lithuania.
At the opening of the retrospective show of Xul Solar’s work at the Buenos Aires Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1968, Jorge Luis Borges closes his speech with a somewhat enigmatic invitation: “As Xul would say, let’s pan-live in this world of his visions, of his lines, of joy, of purity and of the melody of his colors”1. Why does he speak of melody? Is he suggesting his colors are organized in a set sequence? Or is he al- luding to the musical side of Solar’s work, and urging a systematic study thereof? Probably inspired by Xul’s piano of colors, Borges’s musical metaphor is not an isolated case among Xul Solar´s critics. It makes one wonder about the importance of music in the life of the artist and its influence on his pictorial work2.
There are many questions: what instruments did Xul play? Did he sing, go to concerts? Who were his favorite composers and what kind of music did he prefer? At what point did he take an interest in music and when did he begin to associate it with painting? It is necessary to investigate whether there are influences to his synesthetic tendency and determine the effect of music on his other fields of interests. Are there documents that give further information about Xul’s research into the field of musical notation? What are the concepts behind his keyboards of colors and where do they lie in relation to similar inventions? How is the musical manifest in his paintings? Is this a conscious relation? To these ends, it is useful to reflect on the way music connects to Solar’s aesthetic thinking and to his work’s overriding symbology. Finally, what does his work teach us about music? Or is music the key to understand- ing certain Xul Solar paintings?
STUDIES, PRACTICE AND MUSICAL INTERESTS
The zither currently at the Museo Xul Solar might have been the first instrument that the artist learned how to play, perhaps under his father’s instruction. From a family of music lovers, Emilio Schulz (Xul’s father) carried on the musical traditional by sending his son to study the violin, the piano, music theory, and by taking him to concerts. Later, the young Alejandro would sit at the piano during the long melancholy days and the deep lonely nights that he spent pondering his vocation; there, he would figure out melodies, explore chords and try to make up harmonies. Music was an important part of the creative foundation of his early youth. Along with poetry, meditation, readings in the esoteric and philosophy, painting and drawing, music was the magma where the anguish and desires that tormented him blended.
In Europe, Xul’s musical awareness –and indeed his general cultural awareness– broadened. He was able to listen to different sorts of excel- lent music in concert halls and through the scores that he could buy and then play on the piano. When he returned to Argentina, he made contact with local composers and musicians like those gathered at the Grupo Renovación3. In his library there are scores autographed by Juan Carlos Paz and Roberto García Morillo, and Xul is likely to have known Alberto Ginastera, Carlos Guastavino, Carlos Vega and Atahualpa Yupanqui as well. He read about many aspects of the world of music –dance, the piano’s mechanism, folk songs, harmony, counterpoint and different types of music– as well as music’s relation with other art forms. He participated in studio sessions, sang in choruses, played the piano, frequented the ballet, concerts, conferences on music and the opera –all of which confirm the importance of music in his life.
His taste for Richard Wagner and Johann Sebastian Bach, followed by Debussy and Stravinsky, is evident from his collection of scores, books and records. There is, however, a divide between the composers whose recordings he liked to listen to (Honegger, Richard Strauss, Ravel and Liszt) and those he played on the piano. This latter group includes Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Schoenberg, as well as some twenty composer for harpsichord or virginal (Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, Cou- perin, Rameau, Byrd, Gibbons and others). In terms of historical periods in his collection, there are few pieces from the Classical period, and, among Romantic composers, the absence of works by Schubert and Brahms is striking. His collection contains less popular music (specifi- cally jazz, Latin music and tango), and almost all of it is in record form. The absence of chamber music and symphonies is surprising.
A study of the collection’s genres would lead to other conclusions. First, the almost total absence of piano recordings confirms that Xul was an excellent piano player, which allowed him to play his favorite pieces. Second, two genres predominate: opera, especially Germanic opera, and ballet, especially by French composers. Russian composers hold an important place in both opera and ballet, and a certain predilec- tion for symphonic choral music is also evident. These preferences con- firm the artist’s interest in combined artistic media: sounds and words, music and gesture, stage sets and harmonies.
WAGNER AND THE MEETING OF THE ARTS
After the Teatro Colon opened in 1908, Xul was able to listen to Wagnerian dramas in an ideal setting4. The influence of this composer on Xul is so deep that it can be felt in his autobiographical writings, even when there is no explicit reference to Wagner. Take, for example, the following text, where Xul uses an intense poetic style:
October 1910 – Buenos Aires – night– I am oppressed by a vague suffocation of desires, like rivaling and deadly enemy fogs; in the midst of my agitation, my spirit flutters about, looking for a way to escape, I don’t know where to. I hear the splintering waves from between the hum of the sea and I feel cooling breezes; but the night- time fleets of wandering ships vanish when called; mounted stern giants go silently through distant deserts of air, hiding the tight-colored moon, but their lesser souls do not understand me; ghosts, veiled things fill the air, I can not define them nor do they help me; keen hidden laughter and quick heard movements attract me fatally, while the fogs, like snakes, vanish.
Clear visions in the night, rhythmic musical sighs from the florid jungle, assorted rustling waters dance about and the breath-perfume of the young Spring plays and surrounds me like delicious flames, in delirious fever they strike me dumb, Oh! And a lively group of delicate maidens and magnificent mermaids!
But I do not understand their dances and nearby words, the most lovely one is at my side and the tiring delight numbs me painfully, the sad fogs hiding the picture, worthy of eternity in its young life - Oh! What hands, what calls will lead me to pure air, to radiant sun and to midday satisfaction? I will become an old hat at this anguished struggle; with my hands, my eager eyes and ears, with my burning and wounding brain, I will find the way; if there is no way, if there is no land free of anguish for me, all of me, within my thoughts, I will make a world for myself, for my brothers5.
Splintering waves from between the hum of the sea seems to describe the beginning of The Rhinegold, whose erotic atmosphere resembles the feel of Xul’s writing. The lively group of delicate maidens and magnificent mermaids is a reference to Rhine’s daughters, while the keen hidden laughter and quick heard movements that attract him fatally bring to mind those daughters’ flirtatious teasing of Alberich. The musical set- ting is evident in the rhymic musical sighs, and the dancing waters refer to the Wagner’s water-like aural effects. The mounted stern giants might allude to Fasolt and Fafner, whose image is combined with horse rid- ing, probably taken from the The Valkyrie. Likewise, the delicious flames that surround him recall the end of the opera when Wotan abandons Brunhilde who is asleep in a circle of fire. Clearly, several Wagnerian im- ages form part of the young artist’s inner tumult. Neither does it seem a coincidence that during that year there were productions of both The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie at the Teatro Colon. Finally, the terminology he chooses to describe his first composition, that dramatic and musi- cal poem6 that has unfortunately been lost, also places him within the Wagnerian tradition7.
The description of the revelry stops suddenly with a much more conscious resolution: Xul announces his need to travel and to find his own way in the world using his hands (painting and playing musical instruments), his eyes (looking at paintings, reading), his ears (listening to music and the sounds of nature) and his burning and wounding brain (thinking, meditating, studying art, religion and philosophy). Equating his senses and his intellectual faculties is very significant since it im- plies a valorization of the first. That is to say, knowledge is not sought with the brain alone –in truth, the brain comes last–, but also with the sense of touch, of sight and of hearing.
At least two testimonies evidence not only the importance of music for Xul, but also its function as a way into inner worlds. Francisco Luis Bernárdez states that in Xul’s room in Paris, during World War I, there was a harmonium... …a wreck of a piano that let Xul reach the sky through music. It was at those heights that our friend really lived. From there came forth his pure colors, his ineffable visions, his words full of priceless poetry, his good- ness. And, of course, his stars which for him were living and familiar creatures, the unquenchable source of his oracles. Truth to tell, he lived there and sometimes came down to this world8.
Strangely, Luis Falcini, who was also in Paris with Xul at that time, uses similar terms to describe the key role of the ear –the organ of re- ceptivity according to Paul Claudel9– in Xul’s meditations:
[Xul’s small work space in Paris in 1914 was] the space under a spiral staircase, a kind of landing where he could barely get around with his long legs. Leaning on the mast or staircase’s center pole, his harmonium was visually striking. Xul Solar curled up in this box to sound chords that took him to the Olympus of his reveries10.
Might these men have witnessed some of Xul’s music-induced trances? In the artist’s earlier discourse, he mixes images of vision (fogs, clear visions in the night), smell (breath-perfume), touch (I feel cooling breezes, delirious fevers), movement (my spirit flutters, dancing waters), audition (splintering waves from between the hum of the sea, the murmur of the waters, rythmic musical sighs) and taste (delicious flames). This charac- teristic is also true of poets like Baudelaire and Rimbaud, who write from the common depths of sensations11. It makes us wonder if Xul was already reading these poets. The answer lies a little later in the artist’s diary, when he writes:
I have been preparing to go to Europe with enough money for a month, and I have gone back and forth between feelings of hope, the desire to struggle, rest and utter desperation. Un matin nous partons, le cerveau plein de flamme, le cœur gros de rancune et de désirs amers12.
Written in French, these verse were not written by Xul. They are taken from “Le voyage”, a poem by Charles Baudelaire:
Pour l’enfant, amoureux de cartes et d’estampes, L’univers est égal à son vaste appétit. Ah! que le monde est grand à la clarté des lampes! Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
Un matin nous partons, le cerveau plein de flamme, Le cœur gros de rancune et de désirs amers13, Et nous allons, suivant le rythme de la lame, Berçant notre infini sur le fini des mers: [...]14.
This poem allows Xul to anticipate the sensations that would soon seize him when he began his trip. Furthermore, the similarity between le cerveau plein de flamme and the burning and wounding brain from the 1910 text shows that he was already under the influence of that great poet.
With Wagner and Baudelaire among his early fundamental aesthetic influences, it is not strange that the primordial merging of the arts, which was crucial to both of these artists15, would become crucial to Xul Solar’s thinking.
His conviction about this matter was fully consolidated in Europe, where the artist came across movements like Stile Liberty16, which sought to unify so-called major and minor arts, or the movement around the Der Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider] Almanac, that involved painters, musicians and poets. It is known that this publication sur- prised and reassured Xul, who saw his own queries reflected there. The primary figure in the Almanac, Wassily Kandinsky, was another great admirer of Wagner. He was also an enthusiastic advocate of merging the arts, a subject that he writes about in Point and Line to Plane17 and in On the Spiritual in Art18. He predicts that this fusion will bring magnifi- cent results: “Thus, the unification of the forces of different art forms finally draws near. From this unification, an art that we can begin to make out, the true monumental art, will, with time, be born”. Diaghilev’s Russian ballets, which amaze Xul in Paris, are convincing signs of this art of the future.
Given the strong influence of Wagner, it is not surprising that the first musical characteristic to flourish in Xul’s work is rhythm. For Wagner, rhythm was the essence of all purely human art. In The work of Art of the Future, Wagner sustains that “universal art, the only art of the future” must be constituted on the basis of “the plastic movement of the body, represented in musical rhythm”19.
From 1912 to 1925, Xul Solar works on the visual representation of rhythms and dances. The origin of many pieces, including the Enti- erro20 [Burial] series (1912-1915), lies in rhythm as movement and the visual rendering of that rhythm through the placement and gestures of the figures depicted. In Entierro, placing the monks on an elliptical road suggests a solemn rhythmical ostinato (in this case, a triplet of eighth notes followed by three quarter notes) which would describe why Xul describes this series as a “funeral march”21. Two small wa- tercolors that might have been sketches for tapestries were posthu- mously named Ritmos [Rhythms] (1918 y 1919), due perhaps to their likeness to Kupka’s Amorpha, Fuga en dos colores22 [Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colors]. Like Amorpha, the chromatic dynamism of Ritmos, es- pecially the one from 1919, gives the composition an elliptical rhythm that invites the eye to explore the pictorial space by following the bright orbit of a shooting star. Here, the paused movement of Entierro becomes an dizzying sweep. Likewise, the almost spatial atmosphere alludes to the harmony of the spheres23, a Pythagorian myth (taken up by Plato) where key elements in Solar’s universe like colors, sounds and planets are combined24.
In a corner of Vuelo25 [Flight] (1919), mysterious hands pluck what appears to be the strings of a harp, setting to music the cosmic move- ment of the central figure and bringing to mind Falcini and Bernárdez’s testimonies. Likewise, A los astros26 [To the Stars] (1920) confirms sound’s power to facilitate spiritual elevation. The graphic element composed by the parallel lines of the Amazon’s hair is repeated in the mane of the steed and in the strings of the lyre on which the hand rests. The harp and the lyre are highly symbolic instruments in Western art. They are often associated with the idea of inspiration27. According to Gustave Moreau, for example, string instruments in general and the lyre in particular symbolize ascendance and spirituality28. Xul Solar makes use of this type of instrument to represent both cosmic and poetic flight. The iconographic likeness of certain Moreau figures and Xul Solar’s work recalls the connection that Mario H. Gradowczyk es- tablishes between early Xul Solar and Symbolism29. The female figure might embody one of the muses from Apollo’s court. Apollo’s presence is implicit not only in the lyre but also in the figure of the sun –the star with which the Apollo is associated–, in the laurel crown and in the ravens, which are also Apollonian figures30. Hence, in these pieces Xul Solar seems to indicate the close relationship between musical inspira- tion, poetic flight and spiritual elevation.
The remarkable San Danza31 [Holy Dance] series (1925), which con- sists of variations on the theme of collective ceremonial dances, closes Solar’s early music-visual period. In the three watercolors that bear the name San Danza, Ronda [Circle] and Danza [Dance], music is repre- sented as brushstrokes, figures and splotches of color which, according to Kandinsky’s ideas, add various resonances32. For Jacques-Dalcroze’s Eurhythmic Theory, the bodies of the characters in these pieces seem to act as musical vectors. In the article, “Rhythm as a Factor in Education”, which was in Xul’s library, the Swiss educator affirms the existence of a close relationship between “movement in time and movement in space, between rhythms in sound and rhythm in the body, between Music and Plastic Expression”33. The concept developed in Jaques-Dalcroze’s text are extremely useful in explaining what happens in these watercol- ors. Jaques-Dalcroze opposes “plastic music” to pure music. “Plastic music will picture human feelings expressed by gesture and will model its sound forms on those of rhythms derived directly from expressive movements of the human body”. Isn’t this very plastic music what we can see in Xul Solar’s visual dances? In these works, figuration and ab- straction are two valid language for depicting the world of sound, which is an important, if not fundamental, feature. Music determines the in- ner atmosphere of the five San Danza pieces. It acts as the battlefield for the primordial opposing forces that, in our reading, are suggested in these works. It is in music that these opposites meet in order to fulfill the promise of creation.
NOTATIONS AND SOLARIAN KEYBOARDS
Towards the end of the 1920s, there is a striking change in Xul’s musical focus. According to Juan Carlos Paz’s account in his Memorias [Memories]34, this change is due to Xul’s conversations with Macedonio Fernández. From this moment on, Xul losses any interest in the length of notes, in the question of time in sound, though, in this new attitude, there is a much deeper intention: freeing oneself from time. In an in- terview from 1929, the journalist says: “Listening to [Xul] speak, I lost track of time”, and Xul replies: “Perhaps one day time will not exist for our spirits”35.
The article that Xul publishes on Pettoruti offers a glimpse of his conception of music in general and rhythm in particular. There, Xul identifies three necessities in painting, a term that alludes to Kandinsky’s writings36. These necessities are the poetic, the plastic and the musical. And about this last term, he writes: “The musical necessity demanded of [Pettoruti] free play in terms of line, movement and mass according to that necessity’s rhythmic tyranny”37. With his usual syntactic complexity, Xul presents music as a field where two irreconcilable enemies meet: the freedom of melody, gesture and musical texture, and the tyranny of rhythm. Certainly, his decision to move away from “the [vulgar, material] primary part of music”38, as Macedonio would have put it, is absolutely consistent with the spirituality that he tended to throughout his life.
This conceptual change would explain why the innovations Xul for- mulated in his musical writings from approximately 1927 to 1931 con- cern themselves with pitch exclusively. His intention is not to reject tra- ditional musical notation, but rather to simplify it, reducing the number of signs to be learned and optimizing the space for musical represen- tation. His music notebooks39 show how he came to define two types of musical notation, whose basic principles can be deduced through the analysis of five handwritten transcriptions40. In both trigrammatic and enharmonic notation41, the traditional musical staff is replaced by a new shape (a trigram and a hexagram respectively), where there is no graphic difference between two notes that are enharmonically equal. The same note represents, for example, G sharp and A flat. Enharmonic notation, probably based on the trigram, is characterized by the modi- fication of the notes in order to indicate that they have been risen by a half note: a Saint Andrew cross shape replaces the traditional oval42.
Yet, enharmonic equivalence –one of the fundamental principles of this notation system– only holds true for instruments that have the same temperament, that is to say those in which the octave is divided into twelve identical semitones. For a violinist and a singer, however, there will always be a subtle difference in the intonation of two theoreti- cally enharmonic sounds43. This must have been a point of contention with Xul’s composer friends, since in an article in 1929 Xul advises the journalist to avoid this subject when talking to musicians44. Further- more, because they do not use different keys, Solar’s notations are imprecise as a way to register notes45.
This theoretical work led to one of Xul’s most wonderful inventions: the keyboard of colors. Made using three instruments (a dulcitone, a harmonium and a piano), its origins lie in texts from as early as 1911, when he writes: “a dazzling light, in colors never before seen, in chords of ecstasy and hell, unprecedented timbres, in a beauty new and my own, in my countless children, I must forget all the nonsense that drowns me”46. Colors and chords, lights and timbre, the visual and the auditory —these combinations show his early synesthetic leanings. The Solarian keyboard stands out among similar organological inves- tigations because it does not attempt to produce a music of colors. Its aim seems to be, rather, aiding music learning by facilitating a musical writing close to painting. At the same time, the incorporation of certain traits from experimental keyboards, like the admission of microtones, makes this into a unique instrument. And in the linking of ideas that is Solar’s modus operandi, the keyboard of colors becomes the point of departure for a new stage since it seems to have led the artist to con- sider another improvement for musical notation: the use of color. At the end of the 1940s, his experimental writings leave behind the white of sheet music and become colorful melodic diagrams.
If, like Kadinsky, Xul thought that music could make a contribution to painting, he was also convinced of the value of contributions in the opposite direction, which might result in a better visual rendering of sound. In 195347 he stated that the characteristics of the keyboard of colors allowed for “melodic diagrams that are actually drawings”. He emphasized this extremely innovative point, repeating that “with prac- tice, musical movements could be drawn with legible lines like music”. What would these score-drawings look like?
One of the most serene and appealing watercolors from the Multi- ondas [Multiwaves] series, Cinco Melodías48 [Five Melodies] captures the rolling movement of melodic lines and transforms them into moun- tains, into color planes whose transparencies reveal new matrices. Counterpoint seems to have been used on the five waves, thus evoking a polyphonic piece. In the voices of a chorale, for example, rhythm and cantabile generally go from the deep to the high-pitched; likewise, in this painting the sinuous lines become more and more mobile and uniform as they move from the bottom to the top. Similarly, the blue pilgrim figure at various stages of a journey alludes to both the human aspect of music and the importance of music as a medium for spiritual eleva- tion. Do the ramps in the shape of musical staffs which help to cross the valleys imply that reading music allows us to move forward despite the complexity of counterpoint? In this watercolor, Xul Solar seems to invite us to explore the hidden geography of a polyphonic work that, if listened to, would allow us to reach harmony (the circle of the sun) and enlightenment (the golden light).
Although the juxtaposed planes and the construction of the motif in Impromptu de Chopin49 [Chopin Impromptu] suggest a certain af- finity with multiondas, the principles behind its structure are different from those of the Multiondas series. The title of this piece leads to an analysis of the artist’s music collection and from there a relation can be established with Chopin’s Opus 29 Impromptu Number 1 in A for piano. It is evident that, reading from left to right, the two horizontal stratums from Solar’s Impromptu de Chopin are a graphic transcription of the first measures of Opus 29. The line in the lower section represents the eighth-note triplets of the accompanist, and the swirl up above, shaded in purple, reproduces the melody. At least two authors from the artist’s library are possible references for this melody-line parallel: Ernst Toch, whose essay Melody includes graphics similar to Solar’s multiondas, and Kadinsky, who states in Point and Line to Plane that “all phenomena from the outer and inner world can be expressed in lines –a sort of transposition”50. In addition to the obvious artistic value of Impromptu de Chopin, this piece evidences Xul’s effort to make melodic diagrams that are actually drawings.
Coral Bach51 [Choral Bach] (1950) is somewhat similar to Impromptu; its title also alludes to a type of music and a composer. Yet, the differ- ence between this piece and that earlier watercolor is quite marked, since Coral Bach is largely a chromatic reduction. Uncommon in Xul Solar’s work, this reduction gives the image a nocturnal atmosphere, an atmosphere that is not just literal, but also symbolic and psychological. It might indicate the painting’s connection to the unconscious. It is not possible to verify here the existence of a previous musical model, but the title seems to clarify the difference: it lacks the possessive form, which might indicate that this piece is not an image inspired by a Bach composition (as is Chopin Impromptu], but rather a visual chorale in Bach´s honor. The word “music” in the title confirms the allegorical nature of the piece. The dense texture of the pointed stratums alludes to imitative polyphony and the piece’s shapes suggest triangles, the geometrical figure traditionally associated with the spiritual. It is also interesting to notice the surprising relation between the iconography of these spirits and the previously cited autobiographical text: with their hands, eyes and ears, with their heads in flames, these figures seek their own way through Bach’s music52. Finally, the dates of both pieces suggest that they are in memoriam; 1949 was the hundredth anniversary Chopin´s death and 1950 the two hundredth of Bach´s death.
SOUNDS, PHONEME, SIGNS AND MAGIC
It was certainly in the polyglot context of his childhood that Xul began to play with sounds and words, with the phonemes of the five languages that surrounded him (his father’s German, his mothers’ (las mamas) Italian, the French and English he learned at school and the Spanish spoken on the street). His investigation into the relations between the sounds of spoken discourse and the musical gesture begin intuitively, then. Indeed, these two kinds of sound merge in the state- ment of the poet Jorge Calvetti:
Because he [Xul] loved music, sounds. And mostly the sounds of words, of literature […] We spent hours reading poems in Finnish. He did not understand Finnish at all, but he did understand writing, signs. He read and read, and the sound…that’s where the music was. So he said a poem, a verse, [...] the vowels, the consonance, how they went, the meter. And he repeated and repeated: it was music. He found the music in poetry, in words53.
The parallel between his study of linguistics and music is repeated throughout Xul’s life. For example, the neocriollo [Neo-Creole], a lan- guage with a highly oral nature54, was born at a time when, according to Emilio Pettoruti, Xul “was bursting with concerns […] he was equally interested in everything.: […] pictorial and musical techniques”55. Soon thereafter, in 1917, Xul shared with his friend “some brand new con- cerns: the quarter tone in the piano and a universal language, Espe- ranto”56. This relation between micro-tones and a universal language reminds us that, decades later, musicality would be one of the param- eters that the artist would have in mind in developing his panlingua. In an attitude so typical of him, Xul tried to combine practical ends –facilitating the pronunciation and writing of this language– with artis- tic ones –enjoying its sounds. Panlingua and its dictionary, panjuego [Pangame], can be seen as empirical illustration of his list of universal parallels57. The basic elements of word, music, visual arts, mathemat- ics and astrology organized here are also reflected in the Pan-trees, panaltares [Panalters] and cruces [crosses]58. Finally, the simultaneity of Xul’s development of a shorthand-like writing and the simplification of musical notation59 reinforces the idea of a strong mutual influence between these two fields.
In terms of this parallel between shorthand and musical signs, there is a relevant series of portrait-graphics that seeks not only a physical similarity to the subject but also information about his or her personal- ity and life. In Rudolf Stainer60, for example, some of the ideograms that Xul creates are strikingly similar to certain musical signs. Indeed, there are six lines on the subject’s temple that might allude to the hexagrams used in enharmonic notation. Two red signs derived from eighth notes define the eyes, and a blue eighth note is the ear. The neck is delineated by a fourth eighth note and an ideogram that looks a lot like a tuning fork. These musical references are logical considering how important music was to Rudolf Steiner as a part of meditation, which explains the location of the hexagram. The eighth notes for the eyes and the ear re- call Steiner’s belief in a strong connection between vision and hearing. Finally, the last eighth note and tuning fork for the neck suggest that musical activity can adapt mental rhythm to physical rhythm. In this way, music would act as a nexus between body and mind, helping to keep them in harmony.
The founder of Anthroposophy allows us to address briefly a charac- teristic of music that relates to one of Xul’s major interests: the magical nature of sounds. From his youthful revelries to certain later works, music is associated with the esoteric time and again. As we have seen, Xul’s friends tell of the flights he took through playing or listening to music and there is documentation that attests to this same practice61. In Solar’s work, the hypnotic power of singing is seen in the open mouths of some figures, like the dancers in San Danza (Malba, Costantini Col- lection). In Ángel del carma62 [Karma Angel], the exchange between heav- en and earth is represented through arrows, one of which goes from the angel’s mouth to the man’s left eye. Is this an indication of the relation between an emitted sound –whether discourse or melody– and vision? A hexagram and what looks like a note on the angel’s skirt add musical connotations. The image of the angelic singing that affects man’s vision alludes to the centrality of music in occult rituals63.
Through the figure of the trumpet, music plays a central role in Anjo, a tarot card from the XX Arcana that is generally called Juicio, Resurrec- ción o Trompeta [Judgment, Resurrection or Trumpet]. This image rep- resents the resurrection of bodies and spirits, the process of spiritual re- birth, inner rejuvenation and communion with the divine64. Among the revealing difference between tarot de Marsella65 and the Rider-Waite66 deck is the importance that Xul gives the angel. The expression of its face is peaceful, almost smiling, and its eyes are closed. Might the angel be concentrating on playing music? Instead of representing the strident sounds of the trumpet as lines coming out of the it, as in the Judgment card from the Rider-Waite deck, Xul suggests these sounds with little dots scattered around the cloud. Already used in his visual dances, this effect indicates that music is present throughout the scene. The dots are combined with beams of light emitted by the heavenly figure as in the Le Jugement card from the tarot de Marsella deck. The location of the trumpet, which is in keeping with traditional iconography, indicates its importance to the moment depicted since it is the trumpet that an- nounces the advent of judgment day. Sensed not just by the ears but by the entire body, its sounds are visually evoked by Xul as rays and sparks, as gestures and colors.
These studies show the depth of Xul Solar’s relation to music, a pas- sion until his final days. By playing music, he was able to analyze and to reproduce the Wagnerian harmonies that riveted him and to penetrate the polyphonic textures that he later evoked in his work. His well-defined musical tastes reflect his interest in the combination of different art forms, an interest that might have grown out of his frequent and early contact with Wagner and Baudelaire. Convinced of music’s importance for human beings and motivated by an ideal of universal brotherhood, he tried to simplify piano reading and technique so that they would be accessible to a greater number of people. His experimental notation systems and keyboards are on the list of his wonderful utopias.
In his pictorial work, music takes on many forms. Rhythms are manifest as combined forms; melodies as lines that weave counterpoint textures and suggest sensual harmonies through chromatic juxtaposi- tions. Musical elements act like icons that transmit their symbolism to the canvas and blur the dividing line that separates visual art and experimental notation. Indeed, the intersection of these two fields gives rise to a musical sign that, freed from the context of the score, takes on new potential in Solar’s universe. These visual resonances allude to the magical power of music and are connected to the word.
By bringing together music and other disciplines and fields of knowledge, Xul seems to embody the Wagnerian ideal of the artist- man, who “can not be entirely satisfied but through the union of all art genres in a total work of art: in all isolation of his artistic faculties, [the artist-man] is dependent and only partially what he can be; whereas in the total work of art, he is free and entirely what he can be”67. Xul Solar’s creation is evidence of this freedom.
1. Jorge Luis Borges, “Conferencia”, in Xul Solar. Catálogo de las Obras del Museo, Buenos Aires, Fundación Pan Klub - Museo Xul Solar, 1990, p. 18. (Henceforth, CatXul will be used to refer to the cata- logue, FPK to the Fundación and MXS to the Museo). 2. Aldo Pellegrini, Elena Oliveras, Jorge Glusberg and Jorge B. Rivera are among those who have per- ceived musical qualities in Xul Solar’s work or his work methodology. Cf. Cintia Cristiá, Xul Solar et la musique, doctoral thesis in Music History and Mu- sicology, under Michèle Barbe, University of Paris- Sorbonne, Paris IV, 2004. In Spanish, cf. Cintia Cris- tiá, “La música en la vida y en la obra de Xul Solar (Parte I)”, in Ana María Locatelli de Pérgamo (ed.), Revista del Instituto de Investigación Musicológica “Car- los Vega ”, Buenos Aires, Universidad Católica Argen- tina, no. 18, 2004, pp. 39-54. 3. Cf. Guillermo Scarabino, El Grupo Renovación (1929-1944) y la nueva música en la Argentina del siglo XX, Buenos Aires, EDUCA, Cuaderno de Estudio no. 3, 2000. 4. There are productions of Siegfried and Tristan and Isolde in 1908; Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and The Mas- tersingers of Nuremberg in 1909; The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie in 1910. Cf. Enzo Valenti Ferro, Las Voces. Teatro Colón 1908-1982, Buenos Aires, Ediciones de Arte Gaglianone, 1983. 5. Alejandro Xul Solar, [October 1910], unpublished, FPK. 6. Alejandro Xul Solar, [unpublished], [November, 1911], FPK. 7. The expression “drama musical” [musical drama], taken from the ideas Wagner puts forth in Oper und Drama is used to refer to his operas and other musi- cal work whose verbal and scenic elements are or- ganized for a single dramatic end, according to the conception of Gesamtkunstwerk. Cf. Andrew Porter, “Music drama”, in Stanley Sadie, The New Grove Dic- tionary of Music and Musicians, London, Macmillan, vol. 12, p. 830. 8. Francisco Luis Bernárdez, “Xul Solar”, in Clarín newspaper, Buenos Aires, January 30, 1969, n./p. 9. “La vue est l’organe de l’approbation active, de la conquête intellectuelle tandis que l’ouïe est celui de la réceptivité”, Paul Claudel, L’œil écoute, Paris, Gal- limard, 1946, p. 34. 10. Luis Falcini, cited in Patricia M. Artundo, “El libro del cielo. Cronología biográfica y crítica”, in AA.VV., Xul Solar, exhibition catalogue, Madrid, Museo Na- cional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2002, pp. 204-205. 11. Cf., for example, Arthur Rimbaud, “Voyelles”, in Le Bateau ivre et autres poèmes, Paris, Flammarion, 1994, p. 62; and Charles Baudelaire, “Correspon- dances”, “La vie antérieure” and “Harmonie du soir”, in Les Fleurs du mal, Paris, Le Livre de Poche, 1999, pp. 55, 62-63 and 95. Baudelaire was also one of Wag- ner’s first supporters in France. 12. Alejandro Xul Solar, [unpublished text], [January, 1912], FPK. 13. My use of bold. 14. “For the child, in love with globe and stamps/ the universe equals his vast appetite./ Ah! How great the world is in the light of the lamps!/ In the eyes of memory, how small and slight!/ One morning we set out, minds filled with fire,/ travel, following the rhythm of the seas,/ hearts swollen with resentment, and bitter desire,/ soothing, in the finite waves, our infinities[...]”. Charles, Baudelaire, op.cit., p. 186. 15. Cf., for example, Richard Wagner, L’œuvre d’art de l’avenir, Paris, Éditions d’Aujourd’hui, 1982; and Baudelaire, Écrits sur l’art, Paris, Le Livre de Poche, 1999. 16. The cradle of the Italian version of Art Nouveau was Turin, the first city where Xul resided for a more or less extended period. He would later live in other cities where these ideas were cultivated: Paris, Milan, Munich and London. 17. Wassily Kandinsky, Point et ligne sur plan. Contri- bution à l’analyse des éléments de la peinture, Paris, Gallimard, 1991. 18. Wassily Kandinsky, Du Spirituel dans l’art, et dans la peinture en particulier, Paris, Denoël, 1989. 19. “L’essence la plus originale de la musique devrait s’élancer [...] vers la rédemption au soleil de l’art universel, unique de l’avenir, et elle devait prendre cet essor de ce sol même qui est la base de tout art purement humain: du mouvement plastique du corps, représenté dans le rythme musical”, in Richard Wag- ner, op. cit., p. 130. 20. Xul Solar, Entierro [Burial], [1912-] 1915, watercolor on paper, 15 x 21 cm. FPK. 21. “Ecco una idea di un quadro a tempera che ho in- cominciato, una marcia fúnebre, verde charo, bruno azzurro, rosso apamato, nero, e viola – color chario”. Xul Solar, [Letter to his father], Turin, 1912, unpub- lished, FPK, cited in Artundo, op.cit., p. 204. 22. This likeness is mentioned by Mario H. Grad- owczyk in Alejandro Xul Solar, Buenos Aires, Alba / Fundación Bunge y Born, 1996, p. 38. Jason Wilson (translator). 23. Cf. John M. Cooper and D. S Hutchinson (ed.), Plato Complete Works, Indianapolis / Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997, pp. 1219-1220; James Haar, “Music of the spheres” in Stanley Sadie (ed.), op.cit., vol. 12, pp. 835-836; and Jocelyn God- win, Harmonies of Heaven and Earth. The Spiritual Di- mension of Music, from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde, Rochester, Inner Traditions International, 1987, pp. 124-193. 24. A volume from the artist’s library makes refer- ence to this myth: Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin, Dernière Musiciana: Historiettes, Lettres, etc., sur la musique, les musiciens et les instruments de musique. Rythmique des anciens airs de danse, Paris, Frères Garnier, 1899, pp. 18-24. 25. Xul Solar, Vuelo [Flight], 1919, watercolor, 11,5 x 11,5 cm, MXS. 26. Xul Solar, A los astros [To the Stars], 1920, tem- pera, 15 x 21 cm. 27. Véronique Wardega, “Gustave Moreau: les mille et une lyres”, in Michèle Barbe (ed.), Musique et arts plastiques: interactions. Actes du Séminaire doctoral et post-doctoral, novembre 2000 – mai 2001, série “mu- sique et arts plastiques”, no. 4, Paris, Publications de l’Université de Paris – Sorbonne, 2002, p. 15. 28. Ibid., p. 16. 29. Cf. Gradowczyk, op. cit., pp. 26-27.