June 29, 2021

Philip Hoare: Albert and the Whale (1520)

In 1520 the artist Albrecht Dürer was on the run from the Plague and on the look-out for distraction when he heard that a huge whale had been beached on the coast of Zeeland. So he set off to see the astonishing creature for himself.

In this beautifully-evoked episode the award-winning writing Philip Hoare takes us back to those consequential days in 1520. We catch sight of Dürer, the great master of the Northern Renaissance, as he searches for the whale. This, he realises, is his chance to make his greatest ever print.

Philip Hoare is the author of nine works of non-fiction, including biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noël Coward, and the studies, Wilde's Last Stand and England's Lost Eden.  Spike Island was chosen by W.G. Sebald as his book of the year for 2001.  In 2009, Leviathan or, The Whale won the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. It was followed in 2013 by The Sea Inside, and in 2017 by RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR. 

His new book, Albert & the Whale led the New York Times to call the author a 'forceful weather system' of his own. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Southampton, and co-curator, with Angela Cockayne, of the digital projects http://www.mobydickbigread.com/ and https://www.ancientmarinerbigread.com/

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: Nuremberg, home of Albrecht Dürer, at the height of its power as an imperial city, of art and technology.

Scene Two: The Low Countries. Driven out of Nuremberg by the plague and a city in lockdown, Dürer escapes to the seaside.

Scene Three: Halfway through his year away, Dürer hears a whale has been stranded in Zeeland.  This is his chance to make his greatest print, a follow up to his hit woodcut of a rhinoceros.  What follows next is near disaster, a mortal act.  It changes his life.

Memento: Memento: A lock of Dürer’s hair (which Hoare would use to regenerate him and then get him to paint his portrait)


Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Philip Hoare

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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