• Charles Arrowsmith

Review: Albert and the Whale by Philip Hoare (Washington Post)

Updated: Jan 24


Philip Hoare, prizewinning author of “The Whale” and “The Sea Inside,” returns to the deep in his dreamy new exploration of the life of artist Albrecht Dürer. At least, that’s how “Albert and the Whale” begins. Hoare’s way has always been to swim with the currents he catches, and Dürer’s biography ends up generously spliced with entertaining digressions and unexpected but illuminating juxtapositions. Flitting between biography, memoir, nature writing and art history, Hoare dips into lives as disparate as those of Saint Albert the Great, Thomas Mann and Marianne Moore, who take their places in his personal pantheon alongside returning idols Herman Melville, Stephen Tennant and David Bowie (“the starman”).


We do at least set out in the amiable company of Albrecht Dürer — on a journey he took to the Low Countries in 1520 and 1521. Thanks to his extraordinary woodcuts and engravings, he had become “the first genuinely international artist.” But as the 1520s rolled around and he approached 50, he grew worried. His hometown of Nuremberg was ridden with plague. He was losing “sight and dexterity.” After the death of his patron, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, he needed to seek the favor of Maximilian’s successor. His journal of the trip, which provides a model for Hoare’s own travelogue, is an evocative record.


For the review in full, visit The Washington Post.

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