She was living a hermit’s life in a windowless trailer at an English monastery, praying for hours upon hours and venturing outside only for Mass and to get books from a mobile library. That is until producer Nicholas Rossiter got Sister Wendy to talk about the paintings in Britain’s National Gallery for a 1991 BBC documentary. She and Moving Art were an instant hit.
The art historian followed up with Sister Wendy’s Odyssey the mext year, which built on her unlikely stardom. The miniseries in which she talked about museums in England and Scotland drew 3.5 million viewers. Audiences then and going forward were fascinated by her human tales that brought art to life — though critics were less kind.
Sister Wendy continued to do eponymous TV series into her 80s, marked by perhaps her most ambitious program, Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting. That 1997 series took her 30,000 miles through Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. to talk about works ranging from prehistoric cave paintings to Picasso and Pop Art. It also aired Stateside.
Along with leading a dozen documentaries, she also authored more than two dozen books.