This BBC series consists of 10 episodes of a masterful odyssey through early art, the Renaissance, and baroque art to romanticism, the age of revolution, and modernism. Lumpy, likable Sister Wendy Beckett guides us on a spirited tour of art through the ages that the entire family can savor and repeatedly enjoy. This woman is a scream--acerbic, astute, and surprisingly earthy. Oh yes, and very, very knowledgeable. Within each 30-minute program are several segments covering much canvas, but always in easily digestible amounts. This is perfect for the artistically deprived, the artfully minded, or anyone with a brain and a sense of humour.
Do not let this timid figure fool you. Beneath the dark folds of her habit rages a deeply devoted passion - and a wellspring of intimate comprehension - of creator and creation, art and artist. Author of dozens of books on the subject of art, Sister Wendy came out of religious seclusion to host four documentary series, touring the world's art museums, churches and galleries, for the first time in her life confronting original works previously known to her only through books and reproductions.
This impetuous nun speaks uninhibitedly on the lives of the artists in a manner most secular critics gingerly circumvent. It's not that these details are not well known, but it seems other art historians deem them irrelevant to the work. Not our holy sister. She obviously understands that who the artist is prescribes the work. She has no personal agenda; she just states what she knows, in context. If anything, she overcompensates for the assumptions of her habit and strays further from what might be expected because of it. Her eloquent enthusiasm is more titillating than the generous surprise of her prurient observations.
In this collection, Sister Wendy gives a studied and deeply personal overview of the history of art, with a particular focus on painting. She shares wonderful insights about the artists, their time and their work, so that even those literate in the subject might discover something in her singular perspective. She tends to skip over many more famous works for other lesser-known gems of the masters; she occasionally skips over the masters to direct our attention towards more obscure painters.
To support and develop our understanding, the camera lingers over wide shots and details of the work while the sister discusses them; gorgeous vistas of the various cities add depth and historic value. Every so often, the camera captures a frame as brilliant yet subtle metaphor; other times it is ham-handed, such as placing the nun in tableaus of black and white.
More info about this remarkable woman at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Beckett.