“My love for art is for me a way of loving God. I do not usually speak of Him explicitly since religious language can sometimes put people off. But art is essentially beauty that draws us into the truth of our own being, and whenever we have truth and beauty, we have God. This does not have to be spelt out: it simply happens. For me, it even seems that art can expose parts of the self I was not aware of, so there is more of me laid bare for God to possess. Art is a way of making me human, and you cannot pray unless you are rooted in the truth of your own humanity. Prayer is never an escape but the opposite, an exposure. The real self is held out to the real God, and any pretence or lack of reality makes the whole exercise futile. …
… Ah people say, but a nun can know nothing of life! True, I have been very sheltered, but I had the great blessing of being able to read. Once you can read, all worlds are open to you. Think of Jane Austen who lived all her life as a quiet spinster lady with her mother and sister, yet reading and thinking enabled her to know the human heart through and through.”
Sister Wendy Beckett ~ from the introduction to the book, Sister Wendy’s Odyssey – A Journey of Artistic Discovery.
Sister Wendy Beckett is a well-known art historian, especially because of the documentaries that she narrated for the BBC in the 1990s, and because of her many publications about art. She is intelligent, sensitive, observant and funny. Our family has enjoyed many of her books, and some of the episodes of Sister Wendy’s Odyssey. We also once bought a copy of Sister Wendy’s 1000 Masterpieces, which we gave away to a visiting friend. Then we bought another copy, and gave that one away to a visiting friend. I think we ended up giving about four copies of it away, and then when we went to buy one for ourselves to keep, we couldn’t find one! It is on our family wish list right now!
Her point of view about art, prayer, and how God fits into the scheme of things is always observant, never pedantic, and regularly delightful. What a precious and interesting person she is! Sister Wendy was born in 1930, and entered the convent at the age of 16. She spends most of her time in prayer, living in a little caravan at the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, Norwich, England. She is still writing and publishing books even as she reaches her mid-eighties. I’m so glad to have encountered her work and hope she can continue to teach and inspire others for many years to come.