Cezanne arrives from Paris with hottest ticket in town

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The art world has dubbed it Cezanne fever. An exhibition of works by the French artist known as the "father of modern painting" has attracted the biggest ever advance ticket sales in Britain, which are moving at a rate of 1,500 a day.

A total of 24,000 tickets have already been sold for the exhibition at the Tate Gallery, which was hung yesterday. The artist, whose career began ignominiously, when he failed his entrance exams to art school, has now outstripped even Picasso, the previous record holder, ten times over.

According to the Tate, interest in the exhibition is unprecedented. It has moved from Paris, where 642,000 tickets were sold. "It's been so talked about since it opened there, and it's bred so much excitement," said Damien Whitmore, head of communications at the Tate.

"Cezanne is really coming into his own, it's so accessible and it's so beautiful. It also shows how interested people are in the visual arts."

The exhibition is also expected to attract a bumper trade in Cezanne merchandise, including jugs, pots, books, CD-Roms, bottles of wine - with labels that reproduce paintings by the artist - and tea towels.

Although he was one of the most influential painters of this century, and described by Matisse as a god, Cezanne enjoyed little success in his own, reclusive lifetime. John Golding, the artist and curator, said: "It's very poignant, and the other interesting thing is that he would have hated all these artists who were so influenced by him. He would have been appalled by Picasso."