A breadth of fresh air: Artist pays tribute to Delaware in paintings


Four of the 88 paintings by Maria Liberto Bessette at the Delaware Agricultural Museum depict scenes from Belmont Hall. Information about the historic sites Mrs. Bessette has painted is also available. (Special to the Delaware State News by Dee Marvin Emeigh)

DOVER — It’s small wonder that Maria Liberto Bessette has chosen to pay tribute to Delaware with an exhibit of her plein air paintings at the Delaware Agricultural Museum. Her roots are in agriculture and more specifically, in Delaware.

Her parents were born and raised near Dover and her grandparents, who came from Sicily 1913, bought a farm here after becoming U.S. citizens.

Mrs. Bessette claims she is primarily self-taught, but she credits her mother, Mildred Anderson, with her early training. “The most important thing my mother taught me regarding art was how to see through an artist’s eyes,” she says. A professional commercial artist, Mrs. Anderson began taking her daughter out to paint from the time she was 10 years old.

“What particular exciting things do you ‘see’ when you look at the natural world? Before you can paint it, you have to ‘see’ it. This is one of the important legacies she has given me,” Mrs. Bessette explains. “Painting en plein air certainly makes me practice this.”

The term, en plein air is borrowed from the French and means “open (in full) air.” Among the challenges in this type of work are the continual change of lighting and atmosphere. “Not to mention the insects,” Mrs. Bessette interjects. “You have to work quickly.” Most of the paintings done in this way are completed within three hours.

Plein air artist Maria Liberto Bessette is exhibiting 88 of her paintings at the Delaware Agricultural Museum. The collection spans six years of painting on location throughout Delaware. (Special to the Delaware State News by Gary Emeigh)

Although her earlier work was more realistic, the challenges of painting en plein air forced Mrs. Bessette to adopt a more impressionist style.

The exhibit represents works of the most recent six years, during which a small group of friends began going out on location to paint together. Now known as the Plein Air Painters of the Mid-Atlantic (PAPMA), the group has evolved to encompass artists throughout Delaware. The members meet weekly from April through October to paint on location throughout Delaware and in neighboring states.

“It’s a stress reliever,” Mrs. Bessette says. “You are only thinking about the work at hand.” She adds that the camaraderie of being with like-minded artists who enjoy the same type of art is good for the soul.

In addition to the paintings themselves, there will be interesting information about the locations that are the subject of the art. An “Explorer’s Gallery Eye Spy” activity will also be available in the exhibit area for the duration of the show.

All paintings in the exhibit are for sale with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Agricultural Museum. Prices range from $60 to $250. Admission to the museum is free on May 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., for exhibit reception festivities.

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