Wendy Beckett

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Wendy Beckett
Born25 February 1930
Died26 December 2018(2018-12-26) (aged 88)
Quidenham, Norfolk, England
NationalityBritish
Alma materSt Anne's College, Oxford
Occupation
Known forSeveral BBC art history documentaries

Wendy Mary Beckett[1] (25 February 1930 – 26 December 2018), better known as Sister Wendy, was a British religious sister,[2] hermit, consecrated virgin and art historian[3] who became well known internationally during the 1990s when she presented a series of BBC television documentaries on the history of art.[4] Her programmes, such as Sister Wendy's Odyssey and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour, often drew a 25 percent share of the British viewing audience.[5] In 1997, Sister Wendy made her US debut on public television and that same year The New York Times described her as "a sometime hermit who is fast on her way to becoming the most unlikely and famous art critic in the history of television."[2]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Beckett was born in the Union of South Africa, and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, where her father was studying medicine. In 1946, she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a Roman Catholic congregation of religious sisters dedicated to education. She was sent to England where she completed her novitiate and then studied at St Anne's College, Oxford, where she was awarded a congratulatory first class honours degree[6] in English Literature.[7] J. R. R. Tolkien was president of her final examinations board and asked her to stay on at the University, an invitation which she declined.[8]

Outside her academic work, she lived in a convent which maintained the strict code of silence typical in convents prior to the changes following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). After attending the Notre Dame College of Education (Liverpool) and earning a teaching diploma in 1954, she returned to South Africa to teach at Notre Dame Convent, a school for girls in Constantia, Cape Town, where she taught English and Latin.[9] Later she moved to Johannesburg where she was appointed the superior of the local convent, while she also lectured at the University of the Witwatersrand.[10][9]

Return to England[edit]

In 1970, health problems forced Beckett to abandon teaching and to return to England. She obtained papal permission to leave her congregation and to become a consecrated virgin and hermit. She began living in a caravan on the grounds of a Carmelite monastery at Quidenham, Norfolk, and her caravan was later replaced by a mobile home.[3] Besides having received the Carmelite prioress and a nun who brought her provisions, she dedicated her life to solitude and prayer, but allotted two hours of work per day to earn her living.[11]

Interest in art[edit]

Sister Wendy spent many years translating Medieval Latin scripts before deciding, in 1980, to pursue art. Her first book, Contemporary Women Artists, was published in 1988.[12] Sister Wendy Contemplates Saint Paul in Art was published in 2008 to celebrate the Year of Saint Paul. In May 2009, Encounters with God: In Quest of the Ancient Icons of Mary was published, which follows Beckett's pilgrimage to see the earliest icons of Mary which had survived the Byzantine Iconoclasm. Beckett continued writing about her interest in icons in the second volume of her Sister Wendy Contemplates series, published in July 2011. This book, entitled The Iconic Jesus, takes the reader through scenes from the New Testament, accompanied by Sister Wendy's reflections. Her next book, published in 2011, The Christ Journey, consists of her commentaries on the artwork of Greg Tricker.[13]

Beckett required medical treatment as an outpatient at a local hospital. The television chef Delia Smith, a Roman Catholic convert, volunteered to drive her there each week. Smith also drove her around the country to meet the artists when Beckett was writing her book about contemporary women artists. Through this the two became good friends.[14]

Having overheard her commentary while attending an art exhibit, a film crew asked to videotape her. This brought her to the attention of a BBC producer and led, in 1992, to the debut Sister Wendy’s Odyssey.[12]

Sister Wendy was often effusively verbal about her descriptions of the human body in paintings, both male and female. As a nun, this came as a surprise to some viewers. She insisted, however, on describing art history's visual accuracy of the human anatomy where called for, and was quite insistent on it, stating that "God did not make a mistake when He created the human body, so I am not making a mistake by describing it."

Television and media work[edit]

Beckett narrates the following documentaries:

  • Sister Wendy's Odyssey (1992)[15]
  • Sister Wendy's Grand Tour (1994)[15]
  • Sister Wendy's Pains of Glass (1995)[16]
  • Sister Wendy's Story of Painting (1996)[15]
  • Saints with Sister Wendy (1997)[17]
  • Sister Wendy's American Collection (2001)[18]
  • Sister Wendy at the Norton Simon Museum (2002)[19]

In 2006 she narrated an audio commentary for tourists to the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican:

  • Sister Wendy's Sistine Chapel Artineraries Tour (2006)[20]

Additionally, she features in the following:

  • Sister Wendy in Conversation with Bill Moyers (1997)[21]
  • Three appearances on Charlie Rose (3 October 1997; 18 November 1997; 19 September 2000) are available on DVD.[22]
  • The Art of Dying (2009) (Dan Cruickshank interviews Sister Wendy on the helpfulness of art in the face of death)[23]
  • Churches: How to Read Them (2010) (Richard Taylor and Sister Wendy discuss the intense medieval devotion to the Virgin Mary and its effect on Reformation)[24]
  • Treasures of Heaven (2011) (Andrew Graham-Dixon talks to Sister Wendy about relics and reliquaries)[25]
  • Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospel (25 December 2012)[26][27][28]

As a television presenter, she is known for having had a distinctive speech impediment which affected her pronunciation of Rs.[5][29][30]

Other media[edit]

A musical, Postcards from God: The Sister Wendy Musical, written by Marcus Reeves and Beccy Smith[31] was performed at the Jermyn Street Theatre in the West End in 2007 and Hackney Empire Studio Theatre in 2008.

In December 2012 Sister Wendy was the guest for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Her favourite choice was "Serenade" (D 957 No. 4) by Franz Schubert, her chosen book was "an enormous book of logical puzzles", and her luxury item was a "refrigerated tabernacle".[32]

Death[edit]

Beckett died on 26 December 2018 at the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, Norfolk. She was 88.[33]

Publications[edit]

Source:[34]

  • The Christ Journey – the art of Greg Tricker[35] (2011)
  • Sister Wendy Contemplates the Iconic Jesus[36] (2011)
  • Encounters With God: In Quest of Ancient Icons of Mary[37] (2009)
  • Sister Wendy Contemplates Saint Paul in Art[38] (2008)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent And the Christmas Season, with John Leinenweber (Editor), Irene Edmonds (Translator), Wendy Mary Beckett (Translator), Conrad Greenia (Translator)[39] (2008)
  • Sister Wendy on Prayer[40] (2007)
  • Sister Wendy's Meditations on the Mysteries of Our Faith[41] (2007)
  • Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favourite Poems[42] (2006)
  • Sky-blue Is the Sapphire' Crimson the Rose: Stillpoint of Desire in John of Forde by John, abbot of Forde, translated by Wendy Beckett[43] (2006)
  • Joy Lasts: On the Spiritual in Art[44] (2006)
  • Sister Wendy's Impressionist Masterpieces[45] (2001)
  • Sister Wendy's American Masterpieces[46] (2001)
  • Sister Wendy's American Collection[47] (2000)
  • In the Midst of Chaos, Peace (with Mary J. Dorcy and Dan Paulos)[48] (2000)
  • Sister Wendy's Book of Muses (with Justin Pumfrey)[49] (2000)
  • Sister Wendy's 1,000 Masterpieces (with Patricia Wright)[50] (1999)
  • My Favourite Things: 75 Works of Art from Around the World[51] (1999)
  • Sister Wendy's Nativity[52] (1998)
  • Inner Life: A Fellow Traveler's Guide to Prayer (by David Torkington; foreword by Sister Wendy)[53] (1998)
  • Sister Wendy's Odyssey: A Journey of Artistic Discovery[54] (1998)
  • Sister Wendy's Book of Meditations[55] (1998)
  • Sister Wendy's Book of Saints[56] (1998)
  • The Mystery of Love: Saints in Art Through the Ages[57] (1998)
  • Sister Wendy's Story of Christmas: Adventures in Art[58] (1997)
  • Sister Wendy in Conversation with Bill Moyers: The Complete Conversation (edited by Karen Johnson)[59] (1997)
  • The Wisdom of the Apostles (compiled by Philip Law; introduction by Sister Wendy)[60] (1997)
  • The Duke and the Peasant: Life in the Middle Ages (with Jean De Berry)[61] (1997)
  • Max Beckmann and the Self[62] (1997)
  • Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering Europe's Great Art[63] (1996)
  • Pains of Glass: The Story of the Passion from King's College Chapel, Cambridge (with George Pattison)[64] (1996)
  • Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Joy[65] (1995)
  • Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Love[66] (1995)
  • Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Peace[67] (1995)
  • Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Silence[68] (1995)
  • A Child's Book of Prayer in Art[69] (1995)
  • The Story of Painting[46] (1994)
  • The Gaze of Love: Meditations on Art and Spiritual Transformation[70] (1994)
  • The Mystical Now: Art and the Sacred[71] (1993)
  • Contemporary Women Artists[46] (1998)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oxford University List of Members for the Year 1972, London, OUP, 1972, p.720, which records full name.
  2. ^ a b Bruni, Frank (30 September 1997). "Sister Wendy, Cloistered". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b Wintle, Angela (21 December 2010). "World of Sister Wendy Beckett, nun and art historian". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  4. ^ Goodwin, George M. (1998). "A New Jewish Elite: Curators, Directors, and Benefactors of American Art Museums". Modern Judaism. 18 (1): 47–79. JSTOR 1396532.
  5. ^ a b Sella, Marshall (26 January 1997). "'You Have a Cold Heart, Degas!'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  6. ^ John Walsh Interview, The Independent 22 June 1996; retrieved 28 March 2013
  7. ^ Interview with Clive Anderson, BBC Radio 2, 28 January 2007
  8. ^ Weinberg, Kate (8 May 2019). "Culture Clinic: Sister Wendy Beckett". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  9. ^ a b Arthur Jones (26 December 2012), "Stepping inside art with Sister Wendy", National Catholic Reporter
  10. ^ Palko Karasz (27 December 2018). "Sister Wendy Beckett, Nun Who Became a BBC Star, Dies at 88". The New York Times. p. B12.
  11. ^ "Sister Wendy Beckett - British nun and art critic". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Sister Wendy Beckett | British nun and art critic". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  13. ^ Wendy Beckett (2011) The Christ journey: Sister Wendy Beckett reflects on the art of Greg Tricker, St Paul's Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8543-9822-5
  14. ^ Brown, Mick (16 February 2008). "Delia Smith on How to Cheat at Cooking". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  15. ^ a b c "TV art historian Wendy Beckett dies". BBC News. 26 December 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  16. ^ Lazere, Arthur (8 August 2001). "Sister Wendy's American Collection". culturevulture.net. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Sister Wendy Brings the Saints to Life". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Sister Wendy's American Collection". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Sister Wendy At The Norton Simon Museum". KPBS Public Media. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  20. ^ "500 Years On, The Vatican Museums Go Digital". itravelmag.com. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  21. ^ "Sister Wendy's American Collection - About the Series - Buy the Book". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  22. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (26 December 2018). "Sister Wendy Beckett, Nun Who Became a BBC Star, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  23. ^ The Art of Dying at BBC Programmes
  24. ^ Churches: How to Read Them – episode 4 – Reformation: Chaos and Creation at BBC Programmes
  25. ^ Treasures of Heaven at BBC Programmes
  26. ^ Arena – Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospel at BBC Programmes
  27. ^ "Arena – Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospel" on IMDb
  28. ^ "Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospel". CTVC. Archived from the original on 18 September 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  29. ^ Harvey, Doug (19 June 2002). "Nun Dare Call It Criticism". LA Weekly.
  30. ^ Riding, Alan (1 September 1997). "She May Not Get Out Much, but She Does Know a Lot About Art". The New York Times.
  31. ^ Shenton, Mark (11 January 2007). "Reviews: Postcards from God". The Stage. Retrieved 25 June 2007.
  32. ^ Desert Island Discs – Sister Wendy Beckett at BBC Programmes
  33. ^ "Sister Wendy Beckett, TV art historian, dies at 88". BBC News. 26 December 2018.
  34. ^ ThriftBooks. "Wendy Beckett Books - List of books by author Wendy Beckett". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  35. ^ "Publication: The Christ Journey - Sister Wendy Beckett reflects on the art of Greg Tricker". Piano Nobile. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  36. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 2018). Sister Wendy Contemplates- the Iconic Jesus. Saint Paul Publications. ISBN 9780854398126. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  37. ^ "encounters-with-god". www.orbisbooks.com. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  38. ^ "Sister Wendy Contemplates Saint Paul in Art - 9780854397525 by Beckett, Wendy- St Pauls Publishing of 0/11/2008". stpauls.org.uk. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  39. ^ Clairvaux), Saint Bernard (of; Edmonds, Irene M.; Beckett, Wendy; Leinenweber, John; Greenia, Conrad (2007). Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season (Hardcover). ISBN 9780879071516. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via www.christianbook.com.
  40. ^ "Sister Wendy on Prayer". .bloomsbury.com. 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  41. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 2018). Sister Wendy's Meditations on the Mysteries of Our Faith. Liguori Publications. ISBN 9780764815775. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  42. ^ "Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favourite Poems by Wendy Beckett - Books". www.hachette.com.au. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  43. ^ John; Beckett, Wendy.; Costello, Hilary. (27 December 2018). Sky-blue is the sapphire, crimson the rose: still-point of desire in John of Forde. Cistercian Publications. ISBN 9780879075699. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Hathi Trust.
  44. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 2018). Joy Lasts: On the Spiritual in Art. Getty Publications. ISBN 9780892368433. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  45. ^ Beckett, Wendy; Winston, Robert M. L.; Wright, Patricia (27 December 2018). Sister Wendy's Impressionist Masterpieces. DK Pub. ISBN 9780789463067. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  46. ^ a b c "Sister Wendy Beckett - British nun and art critic". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  47. ^ Beckett, Wendy; Eady, Associates Toby (24 October 2000). Sister Wendy's American Collection. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060195564. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  48. ^ Beckett, Wendy; Dorcy, Mary Jean (27 December 1999). In the Midst of Chaos, Peace. Ignatius Press. ISBN 9780898707649. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  49. ^ Beckett, Wendy (1 November 2000). Sister Wendy's Book of Muses. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 9780810943889. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  50. ^ Beckett, Wendy; Wright, Patricia (4 October 1999). "Sister Wendy's one thousand masterpieces". DK Pub. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  51. ^ Beckett, Wendy (1 October 1999). "My Favorite Things: 75 Works of Art from Around the World". Harry N. Abrams. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  52. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1998). "Sister Wendy's Nativity". Loyola Press. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  53. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "Inner Life: A Fellow Traveler's Guide to Prayer". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  54. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1998). "Sister Wendy's Odyssey: A Journey of Artistic Discovery". Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  55. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1998). "Sister Wendy's Book of Meditations". DK Pub. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  56. ^ Beckett, Wendy; vaticana, Biblioteca apostolica (1 August 1998). "Sister Wendy's book of saints". Dorling Kindersley. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  57. ^ Beckett, Wendy (28 November 1996). "The Mystery of Love: Saints in Art Through the Centuries". HarperCollins. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  58. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1997). "Sister Wendy's Story of Christmas". Prestel. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  59. ^ Moyers, Bill D.; Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1997). "Sister Wendy in Conversation with Bill Moyers: The Complete Conversation". WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  60. ^ "- by SISTER WENDY". Vanguard Books. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  61. ^ ThriftBooks. "The Duke and the Peasant: Life in the Middle Ages (Adventures in Art Series)". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  62. ^ Beckett, Wendy; Beckmann, Max (27 December 2018). "Max Beckmann and the Self". Prestel. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  63. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1996). "Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering Europe's Great Art". Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  64. ^ Beckett, Wendy; Pattison, George (1 April 1996). Pains of Glass: The Story of the Passion from King's College Chapel, Cambridge. BBC Books. ISBN 9780563371700. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  65. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1995). Meditations on Joy. Dorling Kindersley Pub. ISBN 9780789401793. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  66. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 2018). Love: Meditations on Love. DK Publishing. ISBN 9780789453389. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  67. ^ Beckett, Wendy (1 September 1995). Meditations on peace. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9780751302363. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  68. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1995). Meditations on Silence. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9780751302370. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  69. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1995). A Child's Book of Prayer in Art. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9781564588753. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  70. ^ Beckett, Wendy (27 December 1993). The Gaze of Love: Meditations on Art and Spiritual Transformation. HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 9780060608286. Retrieved 27 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  71. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Mystical Now C by Sister Wendy Beckett, Author, Wendy Beckett, Author Universe Publishing(NY) $25.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-87663-647-3". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 27 December 2018.

External links[edit]