Art historian Sister Wendy Beckett has died. She was 88


Sister Wendy Beckett, the Roman Catholic nun who became an unlikely television star in later life, has died aged 88.

Sister Wendy Beckett passed away on Wednesday afternoon (local time) at the Carmelite Monastery of Quidenham in the UK.

Xinran Xue, a close friend, said: "It is very sad news". In the early 1990's a television film crew overheard her speaking about art at a gallery and asked to film her. It's a huge loss for the art world.

She was later granted permission to pursue a life of solitude and prayer in 1970 due to her ailing health and was also permitted to study art in the 1980s.

She was born in South Africa in 1930 and moved to Scotland as a child.

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

Her television appearances were completely unscripted, with crew members referring to her as "one take Wendy", she often dropped clever and witty one-liners about the artists into her commentary.

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

Dressed in her black nun's habit, Ms Beckett stood in front of paintings and discussed them to the camera without script or autocue, relying on her knowledge and natural presentation style.

Even throughout her success, Beckett remained dedicated to the convent. As an art historian she covered all subjects of art from sexuality, gender, nudity to social issues. She wrote a book on art history in 1988 to help her convent earn money.

After the success of her written work, the BBC commissioned her to present a documentary on the National Gallery in London.

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.

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