Throwback Thursday: Xul Solar

Throwback Thursday: Xul Solar

Advertisers aren’t romanticizing the industry when they say that it’s made up of artists, poets, writers and businessmen. After all, today’s ads are arguably the most prominent (albeit unappreciated in some cases) pieces of art available to the masses. True art–and good ads–evoke emotions. This Throwback Thursday, we’re sharing an artist we appreciate: Xul Solar.

Born Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari in 1887, Xul Solar was an Argentine painter renowned for his Surrealist watercolors. After holding a variety of jobs and travelling around the globe, he befriended Emilio Pettoruti, an Argentine artist, who helped introduce the wanderer to painting during World War I. Not long after Oscar began showcasing his paintings and signing them as Xul Solar. The name change not only made for easier pronunciation, but allowed him to be creatively suggestive:  he reverses the word “Lux,” the measurement of luminous intensity, and combines it with “solar” to create something that suggests “the intensity of the sun.”

At his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he became part of the “Florida Group” or “Martin Fierro Group,” a collection of avant-garde artists including the renowned writer Jorge Luis Borges. This collective experimented with their art, whatever the medium, and was at the forefront of the Modernist movement.

Xul Solar’s paintings are typically described as sculptures that make use of bright colors and stark contrasts and are produced in small forms. His visual style has been associated with the Expressionist, Symbolist and Surrealist movements and is frequently described as a midpoint between the abstract expressionism of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee and the Modernist Cubism of Marc Chagall. This put him on the cutting edge of visual art at the time. And, like most art, his works are really better appreciated by looking at them rather than describing them.


As his adopted name might suggest–as well as his breathtaking works–Solar had a truly creative mind. Where some saw boundaries, Solar saw opportunities. His personal interests outside of painting included astrology (which he expressed by drawing up numerous astrological charts) and Buddhism (which led to his painting subjects such as stairs, roads and representations of God as reflections of his religious beliefs). He was also very interested in symbolic structures such as language and those of games. He developed two of his own imaginary languages, one that was known as “Neo Criollo” that has been described as a fusion of Portuguese and Spanish that he is said to have used in conversation. The other, “Pan Langua,” was meant to combine mathematics, music, astrology and the visual arts and reflected his interest in duodecimal mathematics, which used a base-12 system instead of the base-10 system we use. He also developed his own version of chess known as “non-chess.”

His accomplishments certainly position Xul Solar as an Argentine treasure, both as an intellectual and an artist. He pushed the limits of the visual arts into uncharted territory that would help define the human experience in the 20th century from a uniquely Argentine perspective, and it’s a contribution we continue to appreciate today.

Have any favorite artists? Share them with us in the comments!

Cove Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.[/author_info] [/author]