As her early studies were literary rather than visual, Delfina Bernal’s training as an artist followed a narrative focus. Barranquilla  had no galleries or museums, but at this time a burgeoning literary scene was producing writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alfonso Fuenmayor. Her only exposure to fine art came in reproductions of French works of the houses of the highbrow families in Barranquilla, although she only came to realize their importance years later.

We made paints with pigments and oils that you could buy at the local hardware store, what you would use to paint houses. And with those we painted.

She began studying in painting in 1959 at the School of Fine Arts in Barranquilla, Colombia. With a very complete curriculum in class six days a week for five years. It began with watercolor and perspective, continuing with al fresco murals, silkscreen, clay modeling, commercial art (graphic design), and art history.

When painter Alejandro Obregon arrived to take the post of director of the school the curriculum and teachers changed. Obregon appointed a group of foreign artists and professors, such as Marie Clare de Andreis, Frida Sargent de Obregon, and Maria Luisa Andino de Lopez. Bernal and the other students seized the opportunity for international level training. Professor de Andreis, a graduate of the Sorbonne, exposed her students to French classic images, especially nudes and images of women bathing, on black and white slides. Common themes for students of the art faculty were the classic still lifes, landscapes, and female nudes.


Obregon came with his tubes of paint and shared his fine colors with us. Each of us got a dab on our palette

At that time, the nude in an artistic context was not controversial.

I saw it as natural. I wasn’t ashamed. There is a dichotomy there. I could not go to school and show any cleavage. I could only put on jeans when we painted murals. For me, when I saw the model I saw her as an object. As if she was a still life. She was a lady who did a job and I treated her with great respect.

But still there was a conservatism surrounding dress.

You could not go to school showing any cleavage. We were only allowed to wear jeans when painting murals.