An illuminating exploration of the intersection between life, art and the sea from the award-winning author of Leviathan: Or, The Whale.
In 1520, Albrecht Dürer, the most celebrated artist in Northern Europe, sailed to Zeeland to see a whale. A central figure of the Renaissance, no one had painted or drawn the world like him. Dürer drew hares and rhinoceroses in the way he painted saints and madonnas. The wing of a bird or the wing of an angel; a spider crab or a bursting star like the augury of a black hole, in Dürer's art, they were part of a connected world. Everything had meaning.
But now he was in crisis. He had lost his patron, the Holy Roman Emperor. He was moorless and filled with wanderlust. In the shape of the whale, he saw his final ambition.
Dürer was the first artist to truly employ the power of reproduction. He reinvented the way people looked at, and understood, art. He painted signs and wonders; comets, devils, horses, nudes, dogs, and blades of grass so accurately that even today they seem hyper-real, utterly modern images. Most startling and most modern of all, he painted himself, at every stage of his life.
But his art captured more than the physical world, he also captured states of mind.
Albert and the Whale explores the work of this remarkable man through a personal lens. Drawing on Philip's experience of the natural world, and of the elements that shape our contemporary lives, from suburbia to the wide open sea, Philip will enter Dürer's time machine. Seeking his own Leviathan, Hoare help us better understand the interplay between art and our world in this sublimely seductive book.
Philip Hoare is the author of eight works of nonfiction including Leviathan: Or, The Whale, which won the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction. Hoare is an experienced broadcaster, a Visiting Fellow at Southampton University, and Leverhulme Artist-in-residence at the Marine Institute, Plymouth University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2011. He lives in Southampton.
"This beautifully eclectic book is so much more than a biography of the great artist. This is a book to immerse you. Like the sea in which its author swims daily, it braces and embraces. It beckons us ever on."
– Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times
"A magnificent new book. Hoare summons [historical figures] like Prospero, his writing the animating magic that brings the people of the past directly into our present and unleashes spectacular visions along the way."
– Laura Cumming, The Guardian
"A visionary, encyclopedic, erudite and poetic book."
– Colin Eisler, Robert Lehman Professor, NYU Institute of Fine Arts, author of Dürer's Animals
"Marvelous, unaccountable. Its strange charisma, the book's fluidity, the unpredictability of which disrupts everything, transmuting whatever is steeped in it into something rich and strange."
– Kathryn Murphy, Literary Review
"Albert and the Whale is visionary: a tone poem put together from the lives of others. This book is all about shockwaves [...] Hoare is intoxicated by Dürer's version of the natural world, which threatens to be more vivid, more essential than the real thing. This harmonious and enviably conceived book manages it with full marks."
– Jonathan McAloon, Financial Times
"From Dürer to David Bowie, a delightfully eclectic study of the natural world and art."
– Michael Prodger, The Sunday Times
"Although it centers on Dürer's life and work, Hoare summons up numerous other figures – from Luther and Shakespeare to David Bowie – and somehow makes them relevant to the Renaissance painter. A book of dazzling insight and liquid beauty, Albert and the Whale is Hoare's greatest work yet."
– The Week
"Hoare's deep and illuminating responses to Dürer's iconic self-portraits and empathic portraits of animals inspire questions of sexuality and of our use and abuse of other species, especially whales. In contemplating Dürer's virtuoso skills and gripping 'vision of the dark, the beautiful, and the strange' and sharing his own immersive appreciation of nature and art, Hoare forges a new, reorienting, and exhilarating perspective."
"In Albert and the Whale Hoare moves beyond his own hand, which has hitherto brought hybrid biographies, memoirs and tremendous books on the sea and whales, to make something reckless, marvelous and unforgettable. Dürer would have loved it. So will you."
– Horatio Clare, The Spectator
"If Albert and the Whale were a room, it would be an alchemist's laboratory with a stuffed crocodile suspended from the ceiling, full of freaks and fascinations, reef-encrusted in time. Hoare's lush imaginings sweep you through 500 years on a sea of connections."
– Sue Prideaux, New Statesman