Albert and the Whale
A NEW STATESMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN OBSERVER BEST ART BOOK OF 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2022
‘This is a wonderful book. A lyrical journey into the natural and unnatural world’ Patti Smith
‘Everything Philip Hoare writes is bewitching’ Olivia Laing
An illuminating exploration of the intersection between life, art and the sea from the award-winning author of Leviathan.
Albrecht Durer changed the way we saw nature through art. From his prints in 1498 of the plague ridden Apocalypse – the first works mass produced by any artist – to his hyper-real images of animals and plants, his art was a revelation: it showed us who we are but it also foresaw our future. It is a vision that remains startlingly powerful and seductive, even now.
In Albert & the Whale, Philip Hoare sets out to discover why Durer’s art endures. He encounters medieval alchemists and modernist poets, eccentric emperors and queer soul rebels, ambassadorial whales and enigmatic pop artists. He witnesses the miraculous birth of Durer’s fantastical rhinoceros and his hermaphroditic hare, and he traces the fate of the star-crossed leviathan that the artist pursued. And as the author swims from Europe to America and beyond, these prophetic artists and downed angels provoke awkward questions. What is natural or unnatural? Is art a fatal contract? Or does it in fact have the power to save us?
With its wild and watery adventures, its witty accounts of amazing cultural lives and its delight in the fragile beauty of the natural world, Albert & the Whale offers glorious, inspiring insights into a great artist, and his unerring, sometimes disturbing gaze.
Praise for RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR: 'Rarely have I read a book that felt as if it were speaking so directly, so confidentially to me. RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR is about books and about swimming, but most of all it does what all great books do: makes you feel that it's a private conversation between you and the author. I finished it with an obscure feeling of privilege, to have been granted such access to Hoare's most secret, intimate self ... RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR is a masterpiece' Alex Preston, Observer 'A rich and strange combination of memoir, travelogue and literary biography ... RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR contains much of wonder in words strewn across its pages like treasures revealed on the sand by a retreating tide' Caspar Henderson, Financial Times 'This is an exquisite read, stuffed with dark myths and eerie legends, nourished by the author's sublime gift for poetic description' Michael Simkins, Mail on Sunday 'Hoare conveys a redemptive sense of the wide, continuous and beautiful world, in a remarkable book that sometimes feels rather loosely fitted together, but is always rich and strange' Guardian 'His idiosyncratic tales of mariners, adventurers and the odd dilettante rise almost to the level of poetry ... he evokes the sense of majesty that a seascape can inspire in us' Clive Davis, The Times 'Wonderful ...This beautifully written book is a delight' BBC Radio 4 The themes and preoccupations are familiar from Hoare's previous writing ... but their revisiting here reveals a landscape as exhilarating different as that of the foreshore from one tide to the next' Jane Shilling, Evening Standard 'Hoare writes with a beautiful and liquid assurance, luxuriantly at home in this half-modernist, half-conventional medium and capable of astonishingly realised visions of floating moments and sea encounters' Adam Nicholson, Spectator
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