Every morning at 5:30, Moe Delaitre lights a fire in a wood stove, puts on some inspiring music and delves into people’s souls.
She uncovers truths brush stroke by brush stroke in a 500-year-old farm building in a small French village.
The results are on display – not in France – but at 49 West in Annapolis.
Delaitre returned to the city where she used to live for the show, “L’Art du Nu Francais” (The Art of the French Nude), which opened Friday and runs for two months at the coffeehouse.
It should attract attention, both because of her reputation and the subject matter.
Delaitre used to go by the last name of Hanson until she married a French farmer and moved to the village of Ussy-sur-Marne. She’d been living there part-time since 2002 and married in 2007.
She taught painting in Annapolis for years, had previous exhibitions at 49 West, and kept in touch with the local artists via social media, as well as opening her French home to them.
“Even though she’s been in France, she maintained quite a presence,” said Arnold artist Joseph Karr.
The 33 paintings in Delaitre’s show are nudes. They depict women in the same rear-facing reclining position wearing only a beret. The works are priced between $1,200 and $18,000.
“There are other people that do nudes,” said Brian Cahalan, owner of 49 West, “but these are better.”
Delaitre’s past shows at the eatery included depictions of the seven deadly sins and seven virtues, and featured topless subjects.
Cahalan said they were the most well-attended receptions he’s ever hosted, and only a couple people complained. He’s confident the current exhibit will be similarly received.
If not?
He won’t mind.
“That’s what I want to do with everything I do – push boundaries.”
For Delaitre, a 53-year-old mother of three, the art isn’t so much about that, it’s just an expression of her passion for the study of the human form.
“It’s my discipline,” she said. “The figure has been my discipline forever and this is a continuation of that.”

Delaitre relishes her time in Annapolis, but is content to remain in France.
“I was meant to be there.”
She’s back in the city for 12 days to visit friends, set up the show and give a talk.
“The feeling is wonderful,” she said. “It’s been wonderful to see everyone, and exciting to see all the young artists who’ve come up to me.”
Delaitre is especially impressed with the growth of the local arts scene.
Her home village, which she said has a population of about 900 and is a 45-minute train ride from Paris, was the home of both playwright Samuel Beckett and wrestler Andre the Giant. Delaitre sometimes has coffee with Andre’s brother.
She visited France since she was 20, attracted at first by the art. She met her future husband by chance while seeing a friend.
The nudes are women from the village of all shapes and sizes. “You can say you’re pear-shaped, but there are different pear shapes. One’s a Bosc, one’s an Anjou, one’s a Williams pear.”
Her past work includes a lot of portraits and more precise lines. Since moving to France, the lines in her work have become a bit rougher. It’s a reflection of her surroundings.
“Life is rougher. There’s no 49 West to go to, no Maryland Hall. We’re in the middle of the countryside. It’s a much more basic life, extremely so. But rougher doesn’t mean worse, just different.”
She wants the show to bring some of the allure of her rural existence to Annapolis. “I hope people can see something beautiful in this work. The figures are floating, serene.”
The paintings feature different backgrounds and utilize different types of paint, including oils, pastels, gouache and spray paint.
The first step in Delaitre’s creative process is sketching with her models. She builds the final work from these, then has the models return to refine paintings. Larger pieces take many months to complete.
Delaitre typically focuses on a single painting, but is always thinking about others.
The process definitely works, said Annapolis photographer Dick Bond, a longtime friend and fan. A painting of Bond done by Delaitre hangs in his studio at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
“She’s a superb craftsman and has a great feeling for mood,” he said.
The works in the 49 West show impress him on many levels. “It demonstrates not only an extraordinary eye, but an extraordinary sensitivity for the mechanism of painting.”
Delaitre said hands and feet are the hardest parts of the body to get right. “There are so many more bones, so many more contours and small surfaces.”
In her portraits she often tried to make the hands and feet perfect. Her current nudes, however, obscure the hands and show only backs of feet.
It’s again a reflection of where she is – both in terms of home and art.
While the 49 West show is her first local exhibit in some time, she’s had paintings in several shows in France and has a gallery in Champagne representing her.
It’s another indication of her stature in the art world, said Katherine Burke. She owns The Annapolis Collection Gallery, which has some of Delaitre’s earlier work.
“She certainly has taken the galleries in France by surprise. Many don’t accept American artists, and she’s gotten in.”
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding Delaitre’s 49 West show, Burke said.
“People come to the gallery all the time talking about Moe Hanson. There’s a lot of energy. She has a big following.”
Copyright © 2022, Capital Gazette
Copyright © 2022, Capital Gazette

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