Dedicated to the Late Sister Wendy Beckett
Sister Wendy Beckett (February 25, 1930 – December 26, 2018) was a South African-born British art expert, consecrated virgin and contemplative hermit who became an unlikely celebrity during the 1990s, presenting a series of acclaimed art history documentaries for the BBC and PBS. As a contemplative nun, she lived in solitude in a monastery in Norfolk, England, but her immense sensitivity to art was gained through her studies at Oxford University and from her numerous essays on specific artists and art movements. Her manner is simultaneously straightforward, comical, and inspiring.
In this small but powerful book, ‘The Mystical Now: The Art and The Sacred,’ she opens with a fine essay examining both paintings and their creators and the evidence that the ‘sacred’ can be found throughout art history. She celebrates the “transforming power of art, a meditation on the presence of the divine in our everyday lives.”
What follows the opening illustrated essay is a veritable treasure trove of 65 artists, each represented by one painting and on the opposing page a short essay by Beckett on how the sacred is manifest in that particular work. It is the scope of artists that makes this thesis so interesting. Here are works by Diebenkorn, Klee, Mondrian, Picasso, Rothko, Odd Nerdrum, Matisse, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Joan Mitchell, Jean Rustin, Stanley Spencer, and other well known, established artists alongside the inordinately beautiful works by lesser-known but equally fine artists such as Sally Warner, Pia Stern, Mary Sipp Green, and Yoko Shiraishi, to name but a few. Sister Wendy Beckett has probably done more to bring the great art of history and contemporary times to the world through her highly acclaimed series than any other individual.