Format Hardcover
Publication Date 04/01/25
ISBN 9781639368471
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 304

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William Blake and the Sea Monsters of Love

Art, Poetry, and the Imagining of a New World

Philip Hoare

From the acclaimed author of Albert and the Whale, a revelatory and joyous meditation on the iconic William Blake.

William Blake is one of the greatest artists in western history. His art envelops us. He invented a way to put words and images on a page to express his poetry and art in a manner that has never been truly equalled. His color prints that develop before your eyes like Polaroids, morphing into scenes under the deep ocean or in the starry heavens above. Even in his own time, his fans and followers were left speechless.

"He is pure energy," said his young admirer, Samuel Palmer. When Blake wrote Jerusalem, it was his plea for a world without slavery and oppression, a world where people would not be defined or constrained by their colour, their sexuality, their gender, their beliefs or their dreams. It was a clarion call for what our world could be.

Blake's heavenly bodies are our real selves, soaring beyond time and space. His art is a time machine. We can climb aboard and be taken to the stars. Blake accepted no limits to the human spirit. Blake has the power to heal and transform our world. His art is fluid, not static, not stuck in the past. He printed it so that it would become immortal, continuing on long after he had gone. Even when he died, he just floated through the ceiling, singing; he said it was no more than stepping into another room.

Throughout his life he worked as one-artist, two-people with his partner, Kate. Together they created their visions of what the world could be. Turning London into Albion: William and Kate and their majestic, interspecies, inter-everything menagerie of tygers burning bright and angels in trees, of leviathans and demons and human fleas and a devil who burns with revolutionary ecstasy. In William Blake and the Sea Monsters of Love, with Philip Hoare as our inimitable guide, Blake rises as the new spirit, the new age, the new hope for the whole human and non-human race.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“You can feel the delight Hoare takes in being unbound by anything but his enthusiasms. He is alternately precise and concealing. His biographical sections are both elliptical and redolent of entire lives. Somehow, Hoare’s frequent cuts between the present, the recent(ish) past and more distant history end up feeling like no cuts at all; instead of whiplash or disorientation, what results is an almost calm feeling of all these times existing simultaneously, in the moment of reading. Albert and the Whale will pull you in like the tide.” John Williams, The New York Times
"In his typically allusive and impish style, Hoare has unfurled a whole tapestry of lives connected to Dürer’s work and its themes. He extrapolates an entire cosmology, a way of seeing the world every bit as rich and penetrating as Dürer’s." The Washington Post
"I doubt that any other writer has grasped so deeply the feral, sensual undercurrent of Dürer’s art or has felt so acutely the artist’s attunement to the fierce animals that live in his works: the bony, narrow-headed dogs; the hirsute walrus, seemingly as ancient as the world itself; the armored rhino, as big as a house, menacing in its hardened, ornamented glory. Albert and the Whale is full of such unexpected insights into Dürer’s art, expressed with epigrammatic force and clarity. It is perhaps Dürer’s greatest achievement (and now also Mr. Hoare’s) to have shown us that this fantastical world is not so strange after all, that, in its fearsome splendor, it must be ours too." Christoph Irmscher, The Wall Street Journal
“I loved this new book by Philip Hoare. It’s a rare adventure in reading, drawing us into a swirl of narratives that mingle and resonate. The author is always there, as art critic, historian of culture, naturalist, biographer, and memoirist. His supple voice grounds the stories, with images and refractions of Albrecht Dürer rarely far from view. The rhythms of the prose are deft, seductive. What a fine achievement!” Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me
"This idiosyncratic account of the life, work, and afterlife of the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer considers how art imagines our world. Hoare shows Dürer’s responsiveness to his times, and places his subject in a surprising lineage of artists including William Blake, Marianne Moore, Thomas Mann, and Andy Warhol. These comparisons elucidate Dürer’s radicalism, and establish him as a revolutionary and thoroughly modern artist. Hoare writes, 'Before Dürer, dragons existed; after him, they did not.'" The New Yorker
"More slippery than a straight biography, the book instead swoops cormorant-like into Dürer’s life and times. Albert and the Whale glitters with arresting details."  The Economist
"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." Literary Review