Nun rose to fame as pre­sen­ter of TV art shows

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Obituaries -

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

Sis­ter Wendy found un­ex­pected fame in the 1990s pre­sent­ing a se­ries of pop­u­lar art pro­grammes for the BBC.

Ac­cord­ing to her pub­li­cist, Sis­ter Wendy died from “a com­bi­na­tion of old age and health prob­lems” on Box­ing Day at a care home close to the Carmelite Monastery in Quiden­ham, Nor­folk, where she had lived.

Her cred­its in­clude Sis­ter Wendy’s Odyssey (1992) and Sis­ter Wendy’s Grand Tour (1994).

Jonty Clay­pole, the BBC’s di­rec­tor of arts, said: “Sis­ter Wendy had a unique pre­sen­ta­tion style, a deep knowl­edge of and pas­sion for the arts.

“She was a hugely pop­u­lar BBC pre­sen­ter and will be fondly re­mem­bered by us all. We’re think­ing of her loved ones at this time.”

Xin­ran Xue, a close friend, said: “It is very sad news. Many peo­ple see her as a re­li­gious per­son and she was far more than that.

“It’s a huge loss for the art world. She was a bril­liant art critic.”

Sis­ter Wendy was born in South Africa in 1930 and raised in Ed­in­burgh, where her fa­ther stud­ied medicine.

At 16, she joined a con­vent and in 1950 was awarded a con­grat­u­la­tory first class de­gree in English lit­er­a­ture from Ox­ford Univer­sity. She later taught in cities in­clud­ing Cape Town and Liver­pool.

She be­gan study­ing fine art in the 1980s and she wrote a book on the sub­ject to raise money for her con­vent.

Con­tem­po­rary Women Artists, pub­lished in 1988, was fol­lowed by more books.

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 be­came well-loved for her unique pre­sent­ing style. She would stand in front of paint­ings in gal­leries around the world and dis­cuss, without au­tocue, the work in de­tail.

Many tributes have been paid to Sis­ter Wendy.

For­mer Eng­land crick­eter and tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter Phil Tufnell worked with her on the BBC’s One Show. He cel­e­brated their “un­likely pair­ing”, say­ing she had taught him a “great deal”.

He­len King, the prin­ci­pal of St Anne’s Col­lege at Ox­ford Univer­sity, where Sis­ter Wendy stud­ied, said it was “sad to read” of her death.

Au­thor Dolly Alder­ton said she had been “as­ton­ished” by the late pre­sen­ter’s in­tel­li­gence.

She wrote: “I’m so sad she’s gone. I was al­ways as­ton­ished at her in­tel­li­gence and hu­mil­ity and ten­der­ness.”

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