Published: Sat, December 29, 2018
Arts&Culture | By Kristi Paul

Art historian Sister Wendy Beckett dies

Art historian Sister Wendy Beckett dies

Sister Wendy, an art critic and presenter, died on Boxing Day at a care home close to the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, Norfolk, where she had lived.

"She was a hugely popular BBC presenter and will be fondly remembered by us all", BBC director of arts Jonty Claypole said.

It was only in later life that Sister Wendy found TV fame presenting programmes for the BBC.


Sister Wendy was born in South Africa in 1930, but raised in Edinburgh, Scotland.

After obtaining permission to study art in the 1980s - largely through books and postcard reproductions of the great works obtained from galleries - Sister Wendy chose to write a book to earn money for her convent. "She was a brilliant art critic".

After returning to South Africa, she taught for 15 years at a convent and later was a lecturer at Johannesburg's University of Witwaterstrand.


The Roman Catholic nun rose to prominence in the 1990s presenting BBC shows about art history.

Sister Wendy went on to host a 10-part BBC series in 1994, "Sister Wendy's Grand Tour", in which she introduced viewers to the treasures of the great museums of Europe.

She lived a hermit-like existence in a caravan in Norfolk until 1991 when the BBC commissioned her to present a television documentary on the National Gallery in London. Sister Wendy stood in front of paintings without a script and talked about them.


We invite you to share condolences for Sister Wendy Beckett in our Guest Book. There, Beckett stayed in a convent and studied at the school, earning a Congratulatory First Class degree in English literature. Her producers were more impressed by the pithy, ad-lib analyses she could fit neatly into a soundbite, a feat that won her a reputation as "one-take Wendy". She joined a convent at 16 and started studying fine art in the 1980s.

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