Art Critic Sister Wendy Beckett, Star of TV Show About Paintings at Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum, Dies at 88

Published : Thursday, December 27, 2018 | 5:51 AM

Sister Wendy Beckett

Sister Wendy Beckett, the TV star and art historian who wrote and produced a popular documentary about the masterpieces at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena in 2001, has died at the Carmelite monastery in Quidenham, at Norfolk County in the United Kingdom, on Wednesday, December 26. She was 88.

Beckett emerged as an unlikely TV personality in the 1990s through her belief that art belongs to everyone, according to the Manchester Guardian.

In the hour-long documentary, “Sister Wendy at the Norton Simon Museum,” which she wrote and narrated, Sister Wendy brought the Norton Simon Museum collection alive with her knowledge, her unique style of storytelling, and endearing wit, offering her unique and personal guide to one of the most extraordinary collections of Old Master, Impressionist, Modern and Asian art in America.

The documentary started airing on public TV stations around July in 2012 and was critically acclaimed.

Before this, Beckett had made a name for herself with U.S. audiences in Sister Wendy’s American Collection, where she travelled to six other American museums to discuss masterworks of painting and sculpture.

Beckett spent part of her childhood in Edinburgh, where her father studied medicine. She later described her childhood as idyllic, where adults never quarrelled or spoke unkindly about one another.

“Through my parents’ example there was never any doubt in my mind that God loved us and that it mattered how we behaved,” she wrote in “Encounters with God: in Quest of the Ancient Icons of Mary.”

Beckett joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a teaching order, when she was 17. In the 1950’s, she studied at Oxford University and was awarded a congratulatory first-class degree in English literature. She returned to South Africa and taught in convent schools for nearly two decades.

Later in life, she began hosting programs for the BBC from galleries around the world. She presented a series of BBC documentaries during the 1990s, including “Sister Wendy’s Odyssey” and “Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour.”

One of her most ambitious pieces of TV work was “Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting,” a 10-part series that saw her travel across Europe, the Middle East and the US. Beckett also published a book with the same title.

Sister Wendy, who was born in South Africa in 1930, had resided in the Quidenham monastery for several years. Her order, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, had agreed to send her there to live as a hermit when her health deteriorated, to devote the remaining years of her life to prayer.

blog comments powered by Disqus