PRIVATE VIEW; Pieter de Hooch Dulwich Picture Gallery

If, like me, you weren't able to see the once-in-a-lifetime Vermeer exhibition in Washington and The Hague a couple of years ago, you'll be fed up hearing how marvellous it was. It was a great shame that it didn't come to this country, but this autumn there's a sort of compensation at Dulwich Picture Gallery, where they are about to open what purports to be the first-ever show of work devoted to Vermeer's contemporary, Pieter de Hooch.

The intensity and visual oddness that makes Vermeer's work so amazing is lacking in de Hooch, but in its place is another kind of magic, as well as an unmistakeable sense of time and place. De Hooch's best pictures were painted mid-career, in the late 1650s, and are almost exclusively interior views - frozen moments of family life, staggeringly observed and carefully, cleverly composed to lead the eye through the picture and out through an open door or window to a world beyond. There's an easy domesticity which, much more than Vermeer, gives a very real impression of what middle-class life was like in the midst of the Dutch Golden Age.

It's hard to believe that this is the first-ever exhibition of such a major painter, and it's surprising, in this day and age, to find it staged by a British museum. Dulwich is the oldest picture gallery in the country - all credit to them.

College Road, London SE21 (0181-693 5254) to 15 Nov

Richard Ingleby

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