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.
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.
At that time, the nude in an artistic context was not controversial.
But still there was a conservatism surrounding dress.