Who is Delacroix?

Picasso, Monet, Degas... Before they were world famous artists, who inspired them?

The answer - Eugene Delacroix (uu-ZHEHN deh-lah-krwah) -- a French painter considered to be the "Father of Impressionism."

He is remembered as the artist who changed the course of art in the 19th century.

Right now at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the question "Who is Delacroix?" is plastered everywhere. And, with good reason. The museum's new exhibition, "Delacroix and the Matter of Finish" is the first one of its kind in the United States in more than a decade.{}

Robert Schindler is the museum's new curator of European art, coming here from the famed New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He helped answer the question 'Who is Delacroix?'

"He is one of the most important 19th century artists," says Schindler. "His new and bold style that he developed in his painting, he really was a forerunner. It's fair to say that Impressionism and the history of art as we know it would be very different without him."Schindler, describes the painting style that makes Delacroix the Father of Impressionism. "His really bold handling of paint. You can really see the brush strokes on the canvas and his very bold use of colors."Delacroix is considered the last of the "great old masters."He also influenced other notable artists."Degas, Cezanne, Monet, Manet, even then going in to the 20th century with Matisse and Picasso. All these artists admired Delacroix," says Schindler.Delacroix's work spans many different subjects and themes. Schindler explains, "Everything from myth to allegory, history, religious themes. He's also treating modern subjects, like contemporary history."Starting Friday, you'll be able to take in the workS first hand. "The paintings that we have assembled here are some of the most important the artist has ever done. It is really a spectacular opportunity to see one of the greatest artists of the 19th century in France, probably of all time. And the preservation of these works, they are probably 150 years old, even older. They're just in perfect condition it's just a pleasure to look at."

Birmingham is in some solid company. The Birmingham Museum of Art is one of the two venues in the United States to host the exhibition. {}

These paintings have come from five countries and 18 cities. You'd have to travel nearly 50,000 miles to see the works individually.

There will be a kick-off event Friday evening that's open to the public. The exhibition will be on display until May 18.