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Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering…

Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering Europe's Great Art

by Wendy Beckett

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1163159,936 (3.96)None
Following the popularity of Sister Wendy's Odyssey, a highly acclaimed PBS television series and book, Sister Wendy Beckett's love of art has now taken her further afield on a Grand Tour of ten of continental Europe's cities of art. Like the eighteenth-century travelers who embarked on the Grand Tour before her, Sister Wendy delighted in the opportunity to see in reality great works of art she had previously seen only in books. Her journey encompassed masterpieces by.Velazquez and Goya in Madrid, Bruegel and Titian in Vienna and Kandinsky in St. Petersburg, among many others, but her aim was always to choose art she could share with people at home. Sister Wendy finds huge pleasure in the "total visual experience of the real world" afforded by Cezanne's The Bathers in Paris. In Amsterdam she captures the essence of van Gogh's personal tragedy in her interpretation of Artist's Bedroom, and in Antwerp she finds extraordinary grace in a.simple carving by an unknown fifteen-century sculptor. Florence, Venice and Rome, milestones of any Grand Tour, offer further delights: the joyous work of Botticelli; a rarely seen Giorgione, The Tempest; and Michelangelo's awesome Pieta, a work expressing immense anguish and love.… (more)



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I have heard of Sister Wendy, but not being much of a TV watcher, never saw her TV shows on touring art museums all over the world. This book, "Sister Wendy's Grand Tour: Discovering Europe's Great Art" was for sale at the local library recently, being no longer the property of the library. Did not enough people check this out? Too bad if that's the case, but at least it's mine for now.

The paintings, with a few sculptures included, are organized by the cities (by the museums that they were in) that Sister Wendy viewed them in. Each painting is featured in full-color on one page, with Sister Wendy's commentary on the opposing page.

It may not come as a surprise that many of the art pieces chosen by Sister Wendy are Old Masters, although she does provide insight on Van Gogh and Matisse. Being a nun, one might expect her to favor exclusively religious paintings, but that is not the case. And, she is not fuddy-duddy in her views either but certainly not ribald. Sister Wendy provides a fresh insight that I enjoyed, particularly for the paintings that many of us are familiar with.

About "Mars" by Diego Velazquez (c. 1636-42), Sister Wendy says:

"This is how Velazquez sees Mars: the great god of war: deflated, dejected, stripped of his armour, completely vulnerable. This is not because he has been defeated, but because he has just suffered the great male humiliation of being laughed at. Nothing is more painful to vanity than mockery, and Mars has just been publicly made a fool of."

Then, she adds:

"So he slumps here, brooding and melancholy, his armour useless around him and the only thing still erect is his mustache."

About "Artist's Bedroom" by Vincent van Gogh (1888):

"... van Gogh believed he was expressing great 'tranquility and restfulness', as he wrote to his family. He is actually expressing intense anxiety and frustration, ordered, held in vigorous, trembling tension. It is this moving contrast that makes us feel close to him. We are an anxious, neurotic generation, and we warm to this neurotic man, struggling so bravely to impose calm upon the turmoil of his mental stresses." ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Apr 2, 2013 |
fun and interesting. not my kind of art. you find out what is where. would like to go to belgium and holland. ( )
  mahallett | Dec 26, 2011 |
A long time ago while flipping through channels on the TV, I'd find myself stopping when I came to "Sister Wendy's Odyssey" on PBS. It was a very unique show - a nun critiquing art - and I was always a little surprised at how enjoyable it was. The book takes off directly from that, and I like it's format - full page reproductions of selected paintings on the right, and Sister Wendy's interpretation and comments on the left. She is clearly a fan of art, and does not sermonize in her analysis. ( )
1 vote gbill | Oct 2, 2010 |
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