Albert & 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?
Praise for Albert and the Whale 'In Albert & the Whale he leads his readers off on a marvellously varied, vividly imaginative, seductively digressive adventure that traces the path of another colossus... this is a book to immerse you' The Times, Book of the Week, Rachel Campell-Johnston 'Magnificent new book ... Hoare's feeling for Durer exceeds anything I have ever read ... his greatest work yet' Observer, Book of the Week, Laura Cumming 'Marvellous, unaccountable book. This is a book like the stomach of a whale: capaciously ready to accommodate whatever disparate stuff comes its way' Literary Review 'Philip Hoare, best know for Leviathan, his discursive and personal book about whales, has written a very Sebaldian new book. In it, he traverses his own patch and sniffs out an assortment of seemingly unrelated themes - Albrecht Durer, cetaceans, Thomas Mann and David Bowie, a deformation of the hand, the death of his mother - and proceeds to reveal the single degree of separation between them... Enlightening' Michael Prodger, Sunday Times 'Visionary: a tone poem put together from the lives of others, with detailed use of archives' Financial Times 'Mr Hoare's portrait glitters with arresting details ... His readings of Durer's work grow woozy with enthusiasm, dissolving into a kind of modernist poetry. Readers who prefer their art history to have both feet on the ground might be unmoored; others will be intoxicated' Economist 'It's a summary-defying blend of art history, biography, nature writing and memoir ... you can feel the delight he takes in being unbound by anything but his enthusiasms. He is alternately precise and concealing. His biographical sections are both elliptical and redolent of entire lives. His art criticism is often stirring' New York Times
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