Painted in 1826 by Eugène Delacroix, the leading French Romantic painter, Greece Expiring on the ruins of Missolonghi, is one of the most celebrated French paintings of the 19th century. It was executed shortly after the event it commemorates: In 1825, during the Greek war of independence from Ottoman occupation, the Turkish troops besieged the city of Missolonghi. After a year, the Greek population – already decimated by famine and epidemics – attempted a heroic breakout that ended up tragically. The Turks took ahold of the city and slaughtered the major part of the population. Delacroix, like many European artists and intellectuals, was a fervent supporter of the Greek cause. Two years earlier, in 1824, he had executed a large composition also in support of the Greek independence, depicting that time the horrendous Massacres at Chios (Paris, Musée du Louvre), a painting that caused scandal for its morbid realism. Greece Expiring on the ruins of Missolonghi is not without its own gruesome details: a hand in the lower right corner is shown crushed by the city’s rubbles while a Turkish soldier in the background ominously plants his flag firmly into the ground. Most of the painting however is dedicated to the semi-allegorical figure of Greece herself, represented as a young woman wearing her nation’s traditional costume, her arms barely raised in an imploring gesture. Her figure is eminently emotional and recalls traditional religious images of the Virgin crying over the body of Christ. The dignified image of suffering Greece did not shock the public as the corpses of the Chios massacres had, and the painting reached its goal to make the plight of the Greeks a reality to the French public. Delacroix was not the only artist of his time to support Greek independence: Lord Byron had also contributed to sensitize his huge readership to the Greek cause and Delacroix was among his admirers. Byron’s own military actions followed by his death, also at Missolonghi, in 1824, were further incentives for Delacroix to paint his two great works based on actual events of the deadly war being then fought in the Balkans. A few years after executing this painting, Delacroix fell under the spell of the “Orient” – in fact North Africa - and often represented exotic scenes that incorporated details sketched from life in Algeria and Morocco. Even before he visited those countries, the fascination exerted upon him by the culture of such foreign countries as Greece and the Ottoman Empire can be sensed in this poignant political allegory.
Now kept in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux – Los Angeles’ sister city – this monumental painting has seldom been lent from the museum. Its exhibition at LACMA will allow a large public to admire a masterpiece by one of the greatest French artists of the 19th century and a landmark of European art.
Curator: J. Patrice Marandel, the Robert H. Ahmanson Chief Curator of European Art
Location and complete address
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ahmanson Building, Gallery 202
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Public dates of the exhibition
November 16, 2014 – February 15, 2015
*The exhibition will open to the public on Sunday, November 16, 2014 with a special Members Preview Day on Saturday, November 15, 2014
*The Opening Event is still to be determined and confirmed.
LACMA’s Visitor Information
Monday 11 am–5 pm
Tuesday 11 am–5 pm
Thursday 11 am–5 pm
Friday 11 am–8 pm
Saturday 10 am–7 pm
Sunday 10 am–7 pm