home > exhibitions > archive:

Eugene Delacroix, Collision of Moorish Horsemen, 1843–44. Oil on canvas. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (37.6, acquired by William T. Walters, 1883).
Delacroix and the Matter of Finish
October 27, 2013 – January 26, 2014

This groundbreaking exhibition and publication represents the début of a previously unknown painting by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), whose subject is The Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Delacroix is typically considered the leader of the French Romantic movement. However, this show and its accompanying catalogue offer a compelling reassessment of the artist’s relationship to its supposed antithesis, Neoclassicism, as demonstrated by the artist’s life-long fascination with the stoic philosopher-emperor, Marcus Aurelius. By closely considering Delacroix’s fiery palette and loose brushwork, deeply admired by later artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Georges Seurat (1859-1891), and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), the exhibition contextualizes the oft-repeated assertion of Delacroix as the “father of impressionism.”

Playing on the various interpretations of the word “finish,” the exhibition and attendant scholarship offer a fascinating account of Delacroix’s unparalleled coloristic surface effects, his famously troubled collaboration with his studio assistants, his conflicted feelings about pedagogy, and his preoccupation with the fate of civilizations.

For more information about this exhibition visit our blog at

Exhibition Video Tour


Related Programming

Eugène Delacroix, Spring: Orpheus and Eurydice, oil sketch, 1862. Oil on canvas, 24 x 19.9 in. Musée Fabre, Montpellier Agglomération (inv. 868.1.42).

Delacroix Symposium
Sunday, November 3, 9 am – 5 pm
This symposium was a one-day event dealing with the seminal issues raised by Delacroix and the Matter of Finish. Renowned scholars in the field who presented their research include Nina Athanassaglou-Kallmyer (University of Delaware), Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (University of California, Berkeley), Margaret MacNamidhe (Independent Scholar), Anne Larue (University of Paris, 13), Marc Gotlieb (Williams College), and Claire Barry (Director of Conservation, Kimbell Art Museum). Their papers and ensuing discussion addressed such topics as: Delacroix: The Larger Picture; Incorrectness and Delacroix: Liberty Again; Baudelaire's Mistake? Faces and Figures in Delacroix, from Start to Finish; Lasalle-Bordes and Delacroix; Teacher-Student Disasters in Nineteenth-Century Art; and The Material Consequences of Some of Delacroix's Technical Flaws: Remedies?

For full program information and video footage of the Delacroix Symposium and Scholars Day, please click here.


Pop-Up Opera
Thursday, November 7, 5:30 – 6 pm
The Santa Barbara Opera partners with SBMA to offer a pop-up performance of impromptu opera, featuring arias and songs from Otello, Tosca, and other works that complement Delacroix and the Matter of Finish and the Museum's permanent collection.

Museum galleries


1st Thursday
Thursdays, 5 – 8 pm

Family 1st Thursdays, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Bring the whole family and enjoy 1st Thursday together in SBMA's Family Resource Center located across from the Museum Café on the Lower Level. Museum Teaching Artists will assist families in creating special exhibition-based art projects. Afterwards, enjoy selected galleries until 8pm.

November 7
Delacroix and the Matter of Finish
Painted Stories

Tell your own story by painting your favorite characters and settings featured in Delacroix and the Matter of Finish in tempera on watercolor paper.



Studio Sundays on the Front Steps
Sundays, 1:30 – 4:30 pm
Visitors of all ages are welcome to participate in this hands-on workshop with SBMA Teaching Artists on the Museum’s front steps. Each month explore a different medium, including clay, metal, ink, wood, photography, and paper, and gain inspiration from works of art in the Museum’s permanent collection or special exhibitions. In the event of inclement weather, activities will be moved inside to the Museum’s Family Resource Center.

All participants receive a Free Family Pass to the Museum.
Front Steps of the Museum

November 10
Oil Pastel
Eugène Delacroix's Collision of Arab Horsemen

Paint a version of Collision of Arab Horsemen with vibrant oil pastels mixed with vegetable oil on canvas.


Meccorre String Quartet
Wednesday, November 13, 7:30 pm
Praised for its breathtaking performances, flawless technique, and visionary interpretations, the Quartet's program is inspired by the Delacroix and the Matter of Finish exhibition and includes Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 from Beethoven's Middle period, Schumann's Quartet in F Major, Op. 41, No. 2, and Haydn's Quartet in B minor, Op. 33, No. 1.


Talking While Walking: Delacroix's Hamlet Suite
Thursday, December 12, 6:30 – 7 pm
Elizabeth Saari Browne provides an introduction to Eugene Delacroix's so-called Hamlet suite, a set of 16 lithographs illustrating William Shakespeare's famous tragedy. Browne is an SBMA curatorial exhibition intern, who has devoted the last year to the organization of Delacroix and the Matter of Finish.

Museum Galleries


Eugène Delacroix, Hamlet and Guildenstern (act 3, sc. 2), n.d. Lithograph. SBMA, Alfred Moir Endowment Fund.

Surprised by Shakespeare: Pop-Up Performances
Thursday, January 9, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Inspired by Delacroix's Hamlet suite, SBMA offers an evening of pop-up performances of serious, comic, spoken, sung, poetic, contemporary, and traditional riffs on the enigmatic "Prince of Denmark." Directed and choreographed by Mitchell Thomas and Michael Bernard

Museum Galleries


Film Screening: Gladiator
Sunday, January 12, 2 pm
The initial scene of this 2000 blockbuster adaptation, directed by Ridley Scott, corresponds to the subject of Delacroix's painting, The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius—several versions of which are featured in the Delacroix and the Matter of Finish exhibition. In his introduction to the film, Charles Wolfe, UCSB Professor of Film and Media Studies, explores how paintings have influenced epic films, and hence informed the way popular audiences imagine the past. Followed with a Q and A as time allows (155 min.)


Free Family Guide: Now Available at the Visitors Services Desks
This family guide helps parents and children explore the Delacroix exhibition together.


Copyright © 2015 Santa Barbara Museum of Art. No images or information may be reproduced,transmitted or copied without permission.