Philip Hoare – The Sea as Whale as Art


Saturday 17 June

The sea is our future and our past.  Natural history left us stranded; we’re still trying to get back.



Philip Hoare will be talking about oceans and art, from Herman Melville to Virginia Woolf, Derek Jarman and the mighty salt-sea mastodon, otherwise known as the whale. This is just the latest instalment in Hoare’s multi-disciplinary, multi-volume engagement with the sea, the lives within it and our cultural response to it. His most recent book saw him dive deep with Albrecht Dürer, who changed the way we saw the world. From his prints of the Apocalypse in 1498—the first works mass-produced by an artist—to his hyper-real images of animals and plants, Dürer proved art is a time-machine. In Albert & the Whale, Philip Hoare set out to discover why Dürer’s art endures. He encountered medieval alchemists and modernist poets, eccentric emperors and enigmatic stars. He witnessed the miraculous birth of Dürer’s fantastical rhinoceros and his hermaphroditic hare, and traces the fate of the star-crossed leviathan that the artist pursued. And as he swam through his story, prophetic artists and downed an-gels asked awkward questions.



What’s real or make-believe? Does art have the power to save us?


Philip Hoare’s books include biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noël Coward, 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. Leviathan or, The Whale won the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. It was followed by The Sea Inside and RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR.


His latest book, Albert & the Whale (2021), led the New York Times to call the author a ‘forceful weather system’ of his own. In 2021 he co-curated Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, and he is co-curator, with Angela Cockayne, of the podcasts and