Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Book Review: Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings

Sister Wendy's 100 Best-loved Paintings cover
Photo courtesy of Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Literature

Book Review: Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings

Late last year, the art world mourned the death of Sister Wendy Beckett (1930-2018), the quirky British nun who became a world-wide sensation as a television art commentator. Little did we know that the good sister had one last treat in store for us. SPCK recently published Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings, a book she was working on just before her death.

One can be walking around a museum and be stopped dead in one’s tracks with a shock of joy.

Beckett, Wendy. Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2019. p. 86.
Sister Wendy's 100 Best-loved Paintings
Photo courtesy of Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

As the title implies, the book includes Sister Wendy’s commentary on one hundred paintings, dating from the 6th century CE through 1988. All are from the western world, but there is a nice variety of genres and styles, from Byzantine icons and medieval manuscript illustrations through avant-garde nudes and abstract paintings. (Sister Wendy was neither prudish nor discriminatory when it came to art.) Lesser-known painters appear alongside household names, and the selection includes several female artists. There are some nice surprises, since not all of the paintings are well known.


Art is our legacy, our means of sharing in the spiritual greatness of other men and women […] Art represents a continuum of human experience across all parts of the world and all periods of history.

Beckett, Wendy. Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2019. p. XVI (“Introduction”).
Sister Wendy's 100 Best-loved Paintings spread 210-211
Inside the book. Photo courtesy of Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

As always, Sister Wendy’s commentary is engaging and enjoyable. She had a unique gift for humanizing art and making it accessible to everyone. I particularly appreciate her excellent treatment of the abstract paintings towards the end of the book. She was skilled at putting into words all sorts of visual details. Her interpretations of the artwork reveal her to have been a sharp and perceptive lady. She was very knowledgeable about her subject matter and surprisingly insightful about human nature despite her secluded lifestyle. She brought each of these one hundred paintings to life in a way that few other art writers could have.


A work of art is great to the extent that to encounter it is to be changed.

Beckett, Wendy. Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2019. p. 200.

Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings is a delightful book and a perfect swan song for this much-loved icon. It is available through SPCK’s website, as well as major retailers like Amazon. Many thanks to SPCK for sending me a copy to review.


Alexandra believes that enjoying the art of the past is the closest she can get to time travel, only much safer. When she’s not being an art historian, she can usually be found ice skating and dancing. Visit her at ascholarlyskater.com.

Comments

More in Literature

  • 21st century

    The Many Rebirths of Venus

    By

    Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus is iconic in western art. Alongside the Mona Lisa, it is probably a contender for “most famous painting.” Unsurprisingly the renowned Renaissance picture has inspired reconfiguration, reproductions, and references in artworks ever since. So, let us explore some rebirths of...

  • The Terminus, Penzance Station, Cornwall by Stanhope Alexander Forbes cover The Terminus, Penzance Station, Cornwall by Stanhope Alexander Forbes cover

    20th century

    Fabulous Railway Station Paintings from the Golden Age of Train Travel

    By

    Once upon a time, train travel was the height of fashion. That’s why the second half of the 19th century and first few decades of the 20th century are considered the Golden Age of Train Travel. The train represented an exciting new way to get places...

  • Art State of Mind

    How Artworks Can Suffer. The Forbidden City Case and More

    By

    Recently, on Monday, January 20th, two Chinese women drove their Mercedes SUV into the Forbidden City in Beijing. That event created quite a controversy. The least you can say is that it is daring and very disrespectful towards the art site. This news gives us an...

  • 20th century

    Art for Climate Change: Emily Carr, Odds and Ends

    By

    Art has always had the power to communicate all kinds of emotions; some paintings convey a sense of peace and quiet, while others can make us feel upset or uncomfortable. The latter give us awareness about something that is wrong in our society, something that we...

  • Art State of Mind

    Chinese New Year – the Art of Celebration

    By

    Imagine a household celebrating the Chinese New Year where children share a home and joyfully play together. They have different kinds of toys to play with; two children play with a puppet hanging from a pole, like out of a famous fairy tale. The elders sit...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy