Klee loved the tales of the German poet and writer E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822), who was nicknamed "Ghost Hoffmann" in his own country. Tale à la Hoffmann appears to be loosely based on the poet's best-known lyrical tale, The Golden Pot (1814), a magical story that switches back and forth between high fantasy and everyday life in Dresden. It recounts the trials of the pure and foolish young Anselmus and his efforts to gain entry to Atlantis, the heaven of poetry. The tree from which Anselmus first heard fateful voices speaking to him might thus be on the left. The odd, tubelike construction on the right perhaps represents the glass bottle in which Anselmus found himself briefly imprisoned. The tale's repeated references to time are reflected in the two clocks, and the vessel in the center may stand for the golden pot with the fantastic lily that gives the story its name.
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Title:Tale à la Hoffmann
Artist:Paul Klee (German (born Switzerland), Münchenbuchsee 1879–1940 Muralto-Locarno)
Medium:Watercolor, graphite, and transferred printing ink on paper bordered with metallic foil, mounted on cardboard
Inscription: Signed (lower right): Klee; dated and inscribed on cardboard (lower center): 1921/18 Hoffmaneske Geschichte
Marking: Watermark (lower right): monogram
[Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Munich, in 1922]; ?[Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York, sold to Barr]; Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., New York (by 1968–79; sold in 1979, through E. V. Thaw & Co., New York, to Berggruen); Heinz Berggruen, Paris and Berlin (1979–84; his gift to MMA)
Stockholm. Liljevalchs Konsthall. "Nyare Tysk Konst," February 18–March 12, 1922, no. 334 (as "Fantastisk historia," lent by Hans Goltz, Munich).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Paul Klee," February 12–May 5, 1987, unnumbered cat. (p. 167).
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Paul Klee," June 24–August 16, 1987, unnumbered cat.
Kunstmuseum Bern. "Paul Klee: Leben und Werk," September 25, 1987–January 3, 1988, no. 99.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paul Klee: The Berggruen Klee Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 6–July 31, 1988, unnumbered cat. (p. 133).
Kunsthalle Tübingen. "Paul Klee: Die Sammlung Berggruen im Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York und im Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris," January 22–April 16, 1989, unnumbered cat. (p. 131).
London. Tate Gallery. "Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris," May 17–August 13, 1989, unnumbered cat. (p. 131).
Mexico City. Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo. "Paul Klee: Selección de sesenta obras. The Berggruen Klee Collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 1989–January 1990, no. 23.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paul Klee: Of Men and Women," opened March 27, 1990, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paul Klee's 'Transferred' Drawings," February 19–October 1993.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee in New York," July 26–December 1, 1996, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee at the Bauhaus," April 18–August 17, 1997, no catalogue.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Sammlung Berggruen. "Klee aus New York: Hauptwerke der Sammlung Berggruen im Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 4–October 18, 1998, no. 11.
Jena. Stadtmuseum Göhre. "Paul Klee in Jena 1924," March 14–April 25, 1999, unnumbered cat. (p. 219).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee Figures," October 5, 2001–March 10, 2002, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee's Best," May 24–September 22, 2002, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee: His Years at the Bauhaus (1921–1931)," November 19, 2004–April 3, 2005, no catalogue.
Washington. Phillips Collection. "Klee and America," June 16–September 10, 2006, unnumbered cat. (pl. 10; as "Hoffmanesque Tale").
Houston. Menil Collection. "Klee and America," October 6, 2006–January 14, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Bauhaus-Museum Weimar. "Das Bauhaus kommt aus Weimar," April 1–July 5, 2009, no. 5.047.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Humor and Fantasy: The Berggruen Paul Klee Collection," September 1, 2016–January 2, 2017, no catalogue.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 16, 2018–March 17, 2019, no catalogue.
Will Grohmann. Paul Klee. New York, , p. 26, calls it "Scene from a Hoffmann-like Tale".
Christina Kröll. "Die Bildtitel Paul Klees: Eine Studie zur Beziehung von Bild und Sprache in der Kunst des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts." PhD diss., Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, 1968, pp. 35, 76.
Christian Geelhaar. Paul Klee and the Bauhaus. Bath, 1973, p. 66, calls it "Hoffmannesque Story"; asserts that this watercolor and its related lithograph of the same year (Helfenstein and Rümelin 1999, no. 2714) are the only works directly related to the tales of E. T. A. Hoffmann.
Jürgen Glaesemer inKlee og musikken. Exh. cat., Henie-Onstad Art Center. Hovikodden, 1985, pp. 54, 63 n. 28, pp. 298, 305 n. 28, fig. 5 [French ed., Paris, 1985, p. 175, fig. 5], discusses it in relationship to the lithograph of the same title and an earlier drawing, "Hoffmannesque Scherzo" (1918; present location unknown; Helfenstein and Rümelin 2000, no. 2029).
Jürgen Glaesemer inPaul Klee und die Musik. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Frankfurt, 1986, pp. 223–24, fig. 5 [reprints Ref. Glaesemer 1985].
Sabine Rewald. Paul Klee: The Berggruen Klee Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 132–33, 278, 317, ill. (color and bw), states that this composition was seemingly based on E. T. A. Hoffmann's fairy tale "The Golden Pot"; notes that this work and the related lithograph were both copied from the 1918 drawing.
Philippe Comte. Klee. [Paris], 1989, p. 103, pl. 135.
Donat de Chapeaurouge. Paul Klee und der christliche Himmel. Stuttgart, 1990, p. 16.
Josef Helfenstein and Christian Rümelin, ed. Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. Ed. Paul Klee Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Berne. Vol. 3, 1919–1922. New York, 1999, pp. 264, 324, no. 2609, ill., as "Hoffmanneske Geschichte (Hoffmannesque Tale)".
Josef Helfenstein and Christian Rümelin, ed. Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. Ed. Paul Klee Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Berne. Vol. 2, 1913–1918. New York, 2000, p. 518, under no. 2029.
Vivian Endicott Barnett. The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum. [Pasadena], 2002, p. 295, notes that there is no evidence that this work was owned by Galka Scheyer, who did own an edition of the lithograph.
Will Grohmann. Der Maler Paul Klee. 4th ed. (1st ed., 1966). Cologne, 2003, p. 22 [German ed. of Ref. Grohmann 1967].
Bettina Gockel inPaul Klee: Art in the Making 1883–1940. Ed. Wolfgang Kersten, Yūko Ikeda, and Kenjin Miwa. Exh. cat., National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. Kyoto, 2011, p. 57.
Marcella Sirhandi. "Mohan Samant (1924–2004). Part I. Biography. Part II: Styles and Techniques, Themes and Subjects." Mohan Samant: Paintings. Ahmedabad, 2013, p. 202, fig. 40 (color).
Jeffrey Wechsler. "Mohan Samant: Individualism and Context." Mohan Samant: Paintings. Ahmedabad, 2013, p. 349, fig. 2 (color).
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