Iain Gale on exhibitions

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The Independent Online
In these days of prohibitive insurance costs and London blockbuster exhibitions, it is rare for a provincial art gallery to secure the loan of an important collection of paintings. The Graves Art Gallery Sheffield has managed just this, with a show of French paintings from the Le Havre Museum and Art Gallery, of the quality we would normally expect to see at the Royal Academy.

Hung chronologically, the show takes as its starting point the seminal landscape painting of Eugene Boudin which played such a vital part in the technical experiments of the young Claude Monet. As one might expect from a Normandy gallery, no less than 12 of the paintings on view in a total loan of 25 works, are by Boudin, 10 of them views of Le Havre and Trouville. These range from the exquisite oil on panel of The Beach at Trouville, painted in 1869, to the late canvas of The Seine at Caudebec- en-Caux. Monet himself is represented by two works, which, together with a Pissarro of Le Havre and a Sisley of the Seine, form a good illustration of the Impressionists' various responses to the depiction of light falling on water.

The legacy of the Impressionists is evident in a group of five works by Raoul Dufy, and it is particularly interesting to compare the topography of these with that of the earlier artists. Hung sympathetically, alongside the gallery's own group of 19th-century French paintings, which itself includes important works by Boudin, Corot, Harpignies and the Impressionists, this makes fascinating viewing, and is an object lesson in the way in which, given a little curatorial consideration, a British collection can be enhanced and presented in a fresh light.

Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield (0114-273 5158) to 12 Oct

Left: detail from Pissarro's `The Outer Port at Le Havre, Quai de Southampton, The Honfleur Boat Leaving the Harbour', 1903

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