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Photograph of Elizabeth Terry Delano - woman with her righ side to the camera. She sits in front of an easel with a painting of a mountain on it. She has a paint pallet and paintbrush in her hands. She has her light color hair in an up-do and she's wearing a dark dress with a white collar and a light-color jacket.

The Millicent Library

Fairhaven artist Elizabeth Terry Delano (1845-1933) created still-life paintings, portraits and landscapes in her studio at 91 Pleasant Street. Active in the political issues of the day, she wrote an eloquent letter to the Fairhaven Star urging Congress to grant full suffrage to women and she obtained some 216 signatures for an international disarmament petition sponsored by the Women’s International League.

Artist Elizabeth Terry Delano (1845-1933) was born in Fairhaven, the daughter of Jabez and Elizabeth Terry Delano. Her father was a first cousin of President Franklin Roosevelt’s grandfather, Captain Warren Delano, and they were both descendants of the French Huguenot Philippe de la Noye, who emigrated to America in 1621.

Elizabeth began painting as a small child, and in school the other children would bring their paper dolls to her to have their faces “marked,” as it was called. Her instructor gave her a good background in drawing in black and white, and further instruction led to her mastery of color. She continued her studies at the New York Academy of Design, the Art Students League of New York, the Grouman Studios of Boston, and the studios of noted portrait painters William Merritt Chase, J. Alden Weir, and other famous artists.

Elizabeth spent the majority of her working years in her studio at 91 Pleasant Street, Fairhaven. Here she created her still-life paintings, her portraits of family and friends, and her landscapes. She worked primarily in oils but also did some wood carving of flowers. She held exhibitions at her studio and also taught painting classes. Known as a quiet, self-effacing woman, her whole life was devoted to her painting.

She always painted subjects that were totally familiar to her. Among these were flowers and fruit she herself had grown. An interview published in the Sunday Standard of January 4, 1925, quoted her as saying that “painting perishable flowers such as roses or peonies means working at top speed as long as hand and eye will obey the observing brain.” Her portraits were also mainly of people whom she knew well.

There were many works for which Elizabeth became noted locally. Two of the most ambitious were friezes painted for the homes of her cousin Warren Delano, Jr. One frieze for his home in East Orange, New Jersey, done in 1896, was 66 feet long by 2 feet wide with over 700 chrysanthemum blossoms on the canvas. In 1903 her cousin commissioned another even more grandiose work, a frieze 85 feet long and totaling 235 square feet, for the dining room of his house on Park Avenue, New York. The subject again was chrysanthemums in various colors and in large numbers with sky above them. The gardener for Henry Huttleston Rogers’s estate, James Garthley, assisted Miss Delano by regularly supplying fresh flowers as models for her work.

Elizabeth enjoyed creating portraits as well as still-life compositions. Among some of her noted portraits were those of Theodore Roosevelt and his son Quentin, John I. Bryant, Miss Melora Handy, and Mrs. John Coggeshall.

Although her art work took precedence, Miss Delano also was involved in the political issues of the day. She was a staunch supporter and admirer of Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover and an ardent enthusiast for Republican causes. In 1918, when her paintings were being exhibited in the rotunda of the New Bedford Free Public Library, she announced that all the money realized from the sale of her paintings would be used to purchase liberty bonds. Also in 1918 when Rebecca Hourwich, national organizer for the National Woman’s Party, came to speak in Fairhaven, Miss Delano was chairman of the committee of arrangements. She later wrote an eloquent letter to the Fairhaven Star urging Congress to grant full suffrage to women. Throughout her life she worked for causes she felt were right. Just before Christmas in 1931, she obtained some 216 signatures for an international disarmament petition sponsored by the Women’s International League in Washington, D.C.

As Miss Delano aged her failing sight and health forced her to abandon her artistic work that was her love. She passed away in her 88th year while residing in Fairhaven’s King’s Daughters’ Home.

Exhibitions and Awards:

  • Exhibition in Taunton, MA, First prize September 1902
  • Brockton Fair, Two Premiums, October 1902
  • Paint and Clay Club, November 1913
  • New Bedford Free Public Library, April 1918
  • All Artists Exhibition, Easy Street, Nantucket, August 1924
  • Independent Salon, New York, November 1926
  • Beaux Arts Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1926
  • New Bedford Society of Independent Artists, April 1931 and April 1932

Works Held by Public Institutions:

  • Millicent Library, Fairhaven
  • Fairhaven Town Hall

Mary Jean Blasdale
Excerpted from:  Artists of New Bedford: A Biographical Dictionary by Mary Jean Blasdale and published by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1990; pages 76-78.

In 2020, we asked local students to tell the stories of civically engaged women from the Lighting the Way project through videos—including Elizabeth Delano. 
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