In the 90s Sister Wendy Beckett became one of the most unlikely TV stars. Sad to report she has died.
She emerged from her hermit-like existence in a caravan at a Carmelite convent in Norfolk, England to host unscripted BBC shows from galleries around the world.
Her programs included Odyssey, Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour and Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting.
Born in South Africa, Sister Wendy moved as a child to Edinburgh, where her father studied medicine, joining a convent when she was 16.
BBC director of arts Jonty Claypole said she had
“a unique presentation style, a deep knowledge of and passion for the arts. She was a hugely popular BBC presenter and will be fondly remembered by us all.“
In 1950 Sister Wendy’s order sent her to Oxford University, where she lodged in a convent, and was awarded a Congratulatory First Class degree in English literature., returning to South Africa in 1954 to teach.
In 1970, with deteriorating health, the Vatican gave her permission to pursue a life of solitude and prayer but in the 80s, she began studying art, largely through books and postcard reproductions of the great works obtained from galleries.
Sister Wendy decided to write a book to earn money for her convent and Contemporary Women Artists, was published in 1988, followed by more books and articles.
In 1991 the BBC commissioned her to present a TV documentary on the National Gallery in London. Dressed in black nun’s habit, Sister Wendy stood in front of paintings, and without a script, she poured out her love of art.
Sister Wendy was 88.
Enjoy her knowledge, enthusiasm and “unique presentation style”. She WAS a star.
(Photo, screen grab; via BBC)