A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter
The Art of Lent is a book of meditations on 41 paintings selected by the art historian, Sister Wendy Beckett. Sister Wendy shot to fame (or perhaps more accurately, reluctantly had fame thrust upon her) in the 1990s with a series of documentaries on the history of art for the BBC. Since then she has appeared in the media occasionally, and spends her days in solitude as a hermit, praying and writing, living in a caravan in the grounds of the Carmelite nunnery at Quidenham in Norfolk.
The book begins with an initial four day section on Repentance, Forgiveness, Humility and Purification, and is then divided into six weekly sections considering Silence, Contemplation, Peace, Joy, Confidence and Love. There is a picture for each day of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday, plus Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus for Easter Sunday. In all, there are 41 pictures because, as Sister Wendy is a Roman Catholic, Sundays are excluded from the Lenten fast.
Many of the paintings are familiar, but others are not, including an interesting Goya, a couple of lesser known Monets and a strange Bellini. Many of the works are old masters, but there are some good recent works by Roger Wagner, Ben Johnson, Carel Weight and Craigie Aitchison. The book is worthwhile for its paintings alone.
But each painting is accompanied by a short reflection by Sister Wendy. Her insights into the art itself are always interesting, to which she often adds a spiritual interpretation. You may not go along with her on every point. Some of the assertions she makes are startling, but sometimes she presents a paradox which forces you to think again. These are not gentle meditations by a quiet and peaceful nun; they are robust and thought provoking, and, whilst they are designed to be read during Lent, have something to say at any time of year.
Sister Wendy Beckett, The Art of Lent. SPCK: £9.99 (or, sadly, cheaper on Amazon).
As reviewed by a parishioner in South Luffenham.
This is the Lent Book chosen for the Benefice this year and can be ordered from
Kate Blank in Morcott;
Brigit McMullan in Barrowden
Toni Gandy in Tixover
Sally Smith in South Luffenham
And Lucy Hurst in Duddington.