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 Dürer 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 Dürer'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 Dürer'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.
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