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Xul Solar

Jorge Luis Borges’s Favorite Painter Comments on Religion

Jorge Luis Borges’s Favorite Painter Comments on Religion

His real name was Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari, but he was better known under the name Xul Solar. Born in Buenos Aires of a Latvian father, he spent his whole life in Argentina. When I was in Buenos Aires in 2006 and 2011, I desperately wanted to visit his museum; but I just wasn’t able to do so. Before he went completely blind in the 1950s, Jorge Luis Borges—whom you may know as one of my favorite writers—befriended him and wrote about his paintings. I have always been intrigued by what I have seen of his work.

If you are interested in seeing some of his work from the 1920s through the 1960s, take a look at the website of the Museo Xul Solar, which is in Spanish but easy to navigate.

In 1949, Borges made one of his cryptic pronouncements about the work of his friend:

Versed in all disciplines, curious of all mysteries, the father of writings, of languages, of mythologies, guest of hells and heavens, “panchess-player,” author and astrologer, perfect in indulgent irony and in the generous friendship, Xul Solar is one of the most important events of our age. There are minds who profess probity, others, discriminate abundance; Xul Solar’s plentiful invention does not exclude honest rigor. His paintings are documents of the unearthly world, of the metaphysical world in which the gods take the forms of imagination, dreams. Passionate architecture, happy colors, many circumstantial details, labyrinths, homunculi and angels unforgettably define this delicate and monumental art.

The taste of our time vacillates between mere linear pleasure, emotional transcription and realism painted by a dauber’s brush. Xul Solar renews, in his ambitious but modest way, the same painting of those who do not see with their physical eyes in the sacred field of Blake, of Swedenborg, of the yogis and of bards.