E.T.A Hoffmann as a fine artist (1)


All his life the multiple talent Hoffmann felt like expressing himself by practicing visual forms of art. The draftsman and painter however ranks third behind the poet and the composer. These activities cannot be excluded from his artistic work because the vivid imagery of his expression is a significant character trait of his narrative style that has been inspired by visual artists, especially by the copper engraver Jacques Callo (1592 – 1635) and William Hogarth (1697 – 1764). All in all, 150 drawings or pictorial works have been passed down.




His struggle for the triumph of fantasy leads to Hoffmann’s wall paintings of rooms.

This is why Hoffmann paints the walls of Mniszeksche Palais in Warsaw and later he paints a tower from the Altenburg castle in Bamberg with interior decorations. He is also supposed to have decorated his second flat (Zinkenwörth 50 – this very house) with wall and ceiling drawings. Unfortunately, no pieces of art of that kind have survived. Various architecture drawings and drafts from stage sets however still exist as facsimiles.


He very much enjoys painting his friends – e.g. the publisher Kunz with his family. The classic outline style merges skillfully into the distorting simplification, for example in the watercolor painting of Hitzig’s son Fritz who was to become the role model of the hero in Nußknacker  und  Mausekönig (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King).


Book illustrations  


Hoffmann’s propensity for visualizing ideas also results in illustrating his own works.

This includes the sketches of a scene from Der  Sandmann (The Sandman) and the illustrations of the covers of his own works: Fantasiestücke in Callot´s Manier, Meister Floh, Kater Murr und Klein Zaches genannt Zinnober. (Fantasy Pieces in the Manner of Callot, Master Flea, Murr the tomcat, Small Zaches called Cinnabar)


Hoffmann’s rich pictorial narrative style has animated a lot of artists to illustrate their books and create similar pieces of art. Hoffmann ranges among the most frequently illustrated writers of German literature.