Óscar Alejandro Agustín Schulz Solari (Buenos Aires, 1887 - Tigre, Argentina, 1963) known as Xul Solar, is a precursor to the avant-garde in his native country and an emblematic figure in the Argentine cultural development during the Twenties and Thirties.
The expertise that comes with his painting from the very beginning is the realisation of a scholarly life. The artist explores topics as diverse as those listed by Osvaldo Svanascini, poet and curator, in the exhibition catalogue. His library, which includes more than three thousand titles, reflects the insatiable curiosity of a great intellectual. His interests include mathematics, biology, metaphysics, architecture, music, Persian and Arabic scripts, Muslim religions, Sufism of Rumi, the Upanishads of Hinduism, the Zend Avesta, alchemy, San Francisco de Asis, Zen Buddhism, I Ching and astrology.
Few people know how to define the personality of Solar like his friend Jorge Luis Borges does. For him, Solar is cosmopolitan due to his constant trips. He is also a mystical painter, but as the artist himself adds, he is more a painter of realism, as he paints exactly what he sees in his visions. At the same time, he is anachronistic, as his daring makes him someone from another era, an innovator. Finally, Solar is inspiring; Borges found that when he thought he had invented something, he would notice that he was inventing it through Solar.
Although the exhibition contains mostly paintings, it also includes sculptural objects, manuscripts, photographs, inventions and toys, books dedicated by their authors and astrological charts of personalities such as Alfonso XIII, Goethe, Charles Baudelaire, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, William Blake, Salvador Dalí, Greta Garbo, Pablo Picasso and, of course, Jorge Luis Borges.
With regard to painting, Solar creates virtually all his production on a small scale, using watercolour or tempera, although in this exhibition there are also unpublished works on cardboard and glass. The section on paintings begins with the watercolour Gestación (1914). In the beginning his pieces are full of symbolism and the drawing is schematic, as shown in Entierro (1914) and Dos Anjos (1915). Around 1918 architecture becomes part of his representations. To this geometricised compositions are added and from 1923, the human figure. From this period comes Homme das serpents (1923) and Dos parejas (1924).
His interest in landscape arises during the Thirties, but his creations are metaphysical and carry a mystical component and he does not ascribe to the usual interpretation of the landscape. From his monochrome period works such as Fiordo (1943), Casi plantas (1946) and Ciudá y abismos (1946) are displayed. The grey refers to nocturnal scenes where he takes up colour again, but keeps the landscape as a subject.
Among the objects exhibited those that stand out are the altars Pan altar mundi (1954) and Panaltar (1954); five masks and painted vases, which show Solar’s artistic influences, including Paul Klee, William Blake, Piet Mondrian, Auguste Herbin and Mark Tobey.
Despite the powerful reach of the xulsoliano universe, his merits have only been appreciated with the passing of time. In Europe, regarding his work as a painter, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris dedicated an exhibition to him in 1977 and the Courtauld Institute in London dedicated another in 1994. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía joins the list with this exhibition, which displays nearly one hundred works by this outstanding artist.