Paris art-lovers queue through the night to marvel at Monet

After opening 84 hours non-stop on its final weekend, the largest ever Claude Monet exhibition set a new attendance record when it finally ended last night.

The president of the Grand Palais exhibition hall, Jean-Paul Cluzel, said: "It's going to be an absolute record for a four-month exhibition in France." Almost one million people are estimated to have seen the show since it began in September.

The grand finale provoked a frenzy like nothing seen before at a Parisian gallery. Visitors were advised to come between 3am and 4.30am on the first two nights, and between 2am and 5am on the final night. But even at 3am on Sunday, the queues lasted for three hours. By that afternoon, waiting time had reached a peak of five hours.

TheRéunion des Musées Nationaux , which co-organised the exhibition with the Musée d'Orsay, said that "despite the wait and the cold, the atmosphere has remained cheerful". Energy drinks, chocolate bars and madeleine cakes were handed out to patient exhibition-goers. At the end of the queue, a clarinettist played the same Mozart piece throughout the night, entertaining some and irritating others. Marc, a bus driver, said: "Several friends assured me that it is exceptional. These nocturnal openings are a slightly delirious opportunity to see it, which is all the better."

Since 22 September, the Grand Palais has invited the public to look at 176 works from 14 countries. The impressionist master's work has not been the subject of an extensive retrospective in Paris for 30 years. Only one exhibition in Paris has ever outdone this one: in 1967, Tutankhamun and his Time attracted 1.2 million visitors – but that lasted for six and a half months.

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