Xul Solar was the adopted name of Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari (born December 14, 1887 – April 9, 1963), Argentine painter, sculptor, writer, and inventor of imaginary languages.
He was born in San Fernando, Buenos Aires Province, in the bosom of a cosmopolitan family. His father, Emilio Schulz Riga, of Baltic German origin, was born in the Latvian city of Riga, at that time part of Imperial Russia.He was educated in Buenos Aires, first as a musician, then as an architect (although he never completed his architectural studies). After working as a schoolteacher and holding a series of minor jobs in the municipal bureaucracy, on April 5, 1912, he set out on the ship "England Carrier", supposedly to work his passage to Hong Kong, but he disembarked in London and made his way to Turin. He returned to London to meet up with his mother and aunt, with whom he travelled to Paris, Turin (again), Genoa, and his mother's native Zoagli. Over the following few years, despite the onset of World War I, he would move among these cities, as well as Tours, Marseille, and Florence; towards the end of the war he served at the Argentine consulate in Milan.
During the years of the war, he struck up what was to be a lifelong friendship with Argentine artist Emilio Pettoruti, then a young man living in Italy and associated with the futurists. Also around that time, he began to pay more attention to painting, first with watercolor (which would always remain his main medium as a painter), although he gradually began working in tempera and — very occasionally — oils. He also adopted the pen-name of Xul Solar. His first major exhibition of his art was in 1920 in Milan, together with sculptor Arturo Martini.
In 1916, Schulz Solari first signed his work “Xul Solar,” ostensibly for the purposes to simplify the phonetics of his name, but an examination of the adopted name reveals that the first name is the reverse of “lux,” which references the measurement of luminous intensity. Combined with “solar,” the name reads as “the intensity of the sun,” and demonstrates the artist’s affinity for the universal source of light and energy.
During the years that followed he continued his travels, extending his orbit to Munich and Hamburg. In 1924, his work was exhibited in Paris in a show of Latin American artists. He also struck up an acquaintance with British Mage Aleister Crowley and his mistress Leah Hirsig who held high hopes for his discipleship, but later that year he returned to Buenos Aires, where he promptly became associated with the avant garde "Florida group" (a.k.a. "Martín Fierro group"), a circle that also included Jorge Luis Borges, with whom he was to keep an association and close friendship. It was in this group that he also met poet and novelist Leopoldo Marechal who would immortalize him as the astrologist Schultze in his famous novel Adán Buenosayres. He began to exhibit frequently in the galleries of Buenos Aires, notably in a 1926 exhibition of modern painters that included Norah Borges (sister of Jorge Luis Borges) and Emilio Pettoruti. Throughout the rest of his life, he would exhibit regularly in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay, but he would not have another major European exhibition until his twilight years: in 1962, a year before his death, he had a major exposition at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. In 1963 he died in his house at Tigre, Buenos Aires, 5 years before his biography by Emilio Pettoruti was published.
Xul Solar's paintings are mainly sculptures, often using striking contrasts and bright colours, typically in relatively small formats. His visual style seems equidistant between Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee on the one hand and Marc Chagall on the other. He also worked in some extremely unorthodox artistic media, such as modifying pianos, including a version with three rows of keys.
The poet Fernando Demaría in an essay "Xul Solar y Paul Klee" (published in the Argentine magazine Lyra, 1971, and quoted extensively at), wrote, "It is not easy for the human spirit to elevate itself from astrology to astronomy, but we would be making a mistake if we forget that an authentic astrologer, like Xul Solar, is close to the source of the stars... The primitivism of Xul Solar is anterior to the appearance of the Gods. The Gods correspond to a more evolved form of energy."
Xul Solar had a strong interest in astrology; at least as early as 1939 he began to draw astrological charts. He also had a strong interest in Buddhism and believed strongly in reincarnation. He also developed his own set of Tarot cards. His paintings reflect his religious beliefs, featuring objects as stairs, roads and the representation of God.
He invented two fully elaborated imaginary languages, symbols from which figure in his paintings, and was also an exponent of duodecimal mathematics. He said of himself "I am maestro of a writing no one reads yet." One of his invented languages was called "Neo Criollo", a poetic fusion of Portuguese and Spanish, which he reportedly would frequently use as a spoken language in talking to people. He also invented a "Pan Lingua", which aspired to be a world language linking mathematics, music, astrology and the visual arts, an idea reminiscent of Hermann Hesse's "glass bead game". Indeed, games were a particular interest of his, including his own invented version of chess, or more precisely "non-chess".
Outside of Argentina, Xul Solar may best be known for his association with Borges. In 1940, he figured as a minor character in Borges's fictional "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"; in 1944, he illustrated a limited edition (300 copies) of "Un modelo para la muerte", written by Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, writing together under the pseudonym B. Suárez Lynch. He and Borges had common interests in German expressionistic poetry, the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, Algernon Charles Swinburne and William Blake, and Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism and the I Ching.