Uncover: Sister Wendy Beckett

We know great art by its effect on us. If we are prepared to look without preconceptions, without defenses, without haste, then art will change us.
— Sister Wendy Beckett

Sister Wendy Beckett was born in South Africa but raised in Edingburgh, Scotland. From a young age, Wendy sought to devote her life to God.  At the age of sixteen, she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame.  She attended university in Liverpool to become a teacher and returned to Scotland to teach. She was faced with health issues so she petitioned to live in solitude as a hermit. She lived a very simple life leaving only two hours for work and the rest for solitude and prayer. It was not until the mid-1980s that she started to tap into her other life passion: art. Her life had centered on her devotion to God, but she always found beauty and meaning in art appreciation. It was then that she started writing articles and commentary on art, including her first book Contemporary Women Artists. This caught the attention of readers and the BBC sought her out to film her first show: Sister Wendy’s Odyssey.

The New York Times has 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.” She is described as bringing enrichment to her life of prayer and devotion. In her various television series, she went to many famous historical sites to speak about the breadth of art, artists and the impact of the work on the viewer. Her viewers fell in love with how articulate and sincere she is, and her humility as she expressed her genuine love for art. She spoke lyrically and beautifully of art that allowed her viewers to help not only fall in love with art but the nun as well. In 2001 Sister Wendy decided to go back to her life of solitude and put her life on television and traveling behind her. Sister Wendy speaks of her time returning back to solitude, “My real world is a world away from the bustle, and coming out into a world of travel and television is the unreal part, where sometimes I get glimpses of what I've left behind.” You can’t help but be enriched by Sister Wendy’s genuine sentiments on art, religion, and discovery of works. Even as a woman that devoted her life to her religion, the beauty of art beckoned her to pursue her passion for art.


Sister Wendy on Michelangelo's "Pieta"

Sister Wendy on Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol


Written by Erin Remington

Sources: PBS & Britannica