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Sister Wendy


Sister Wendy Beckett is an English nun and renowned art critic.


Early Life

Sister Wendy was born in South Africa 1930. She spent most of her childhood there, excepting a few years in Colinton, Scotland, where the family moved so that her father could study medicine. The Sisters of Notre Dame were her schoolteachers, and nurtured a love for God and art. She joined the order in 1946, at age 16, and they sent her to St. Anne's College in Oxford. During her time there, she continued to live in the convent and took a vow of silence.

Life as Nun

After receiving a teaching diploma in 1954, she went back to South Africa to teach. There she became a Reverend Mother and lectured at the University of Witwatersrand. However, she suffered from bouts of illness, and returned to England in 1970. Her order obtained papal permission for her to become a Consecrated Virgin living with the Carmelite nuns at the monastery in Quindenham, Norfolk. There, she led a contemplative life, dedicating herself to solitude and prayer. Two hours every day, she worked at translating Latin manuscripts.

Work with Art

After ten years, she grew sick of translating manuscripts and decided to devote her work hours to one of her greatest loves: art. She studied reproductions and sent letters and correspondences to art galleries and museums all over the world. In 1991 she made her BBC debut on a documentary on the National Gallery, which was quickly followed by Sister Wendy's Odessy, a short series in which she discovered hidden art treasures in Britain, and then Sister Wendy's Grand Tour, in which she traveled all throughout Europe and developed a following of fans. In 1997, Sister Wendy's Story of Painting was released in America, increasing her popularity even more. In addition to her television series, she has also written more than fifteen books, such as Contemporary Women Artists and Art the Sacred.

The Gaze of Love: Meditations on Art and Spiritual Transformation (1994)
The Story of Painting (1994)
A Child's Book of Prayer in Art (1995)
Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Silence (1995)
Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Peace (1995)
Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Love (1995)
Sister Wendy's Meditations: Meditations on Joy (1995)
Beckett, Wendy and George Pattison: Pains of Glass: The Story of Passion from King's College Castle, Cambridge (1996)
Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering Europe's Great Art (1996)
Max Beckman and the Self (1997)
Beckett, Wendy and Jean de Berry: The Duke and the Peasant: Life in the Middle Ages (1997)
Sister Wendy in Conversation with Bill Moyers: The Complete Conversation (1997)
Sister Wendy's Story of Christmas: Adventures in Art (1997)
The Mystery of Love: Saints in Art Through the Ages (1998)
Sister Wendy's Book of Saints (1998)
Sister Wendy's Book of Meditations (1998)
Sister Wendy's Odyssey: A Journey of Artistic Discovery (1998)
Sister Wendy's Nativity (1998)
My Favorite Things: 75 Works of Art from Around the World (1999)
Beckett, Wendy and Patricia Wright: Sister Wendy's 1,000 Masterpieces (1999)
Beckett, Wendy and Justin Pumfrey Sister Wendy's Book of Muses (2000)
Beckett, Wendy, Mary J. Dorcy and Dan Paulos: In the Midst of Chaos, Peace (2000)
Sister Wendy's American Collection (2000)
Sister Wendy's American Masterpieces (2001)
Sister Wendy's Impressionist Masterpieces (2001)


Sister Wendy's Story of Painting: Early Art (1996)
Sister Wendy's Story of Painting:The Renaissance (1996)
Sister Wendy's Story of Painting:Baroque to Romanticism (1996)
Sister Wendy's Story of Painting:The Age of Revolution (1996)
Sister Wendy's Story of Painting:Modernism (1996)
Sister Wendy: Pains of Glass (1996)
Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering Europe's Great Art (1996)
Sister Wendy in Conversation with Bill Moyers (1997)
The Much Loved Friend: Portrait of the National Gallery (1998)
The Saints with Sister Wendy (1998)
Sister Wendy's American Collection (2001)

Personal Life

Sister Wendy still lives a contemplative life of solitude in a trailer in Quindenham. She speaks only to the monastery's prioress and the nun who brings her food each morning. The rest of her day she spends in solitude and silent prayer. "My real world is a world away from bustle," she explains. "Coming out into a world of travel and television is the unreal part, where sometimes I get glimpses of what I've left behind."2

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