Master of light and his followers on show in Tate blockbuster exhibition

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WHEN THE Royal Academy presented its blockbuster show on Claude Monet six years ago, it proved the most successful exhibition in British art history.

Now the Tate is comparing the works of the great French Impressionist with those of his friend, the American James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and the British master who inspired them both, J M W Turner, in an exhibition which is already breaking records.

More than 21,500 people have booked tickets in advance of tomorrow's opening at Tate Britain, compared with a previous Tate best of 13,500 for the recent Hopper show at Tate Modern.

With romantic river views of London and Paris and the waterways of Venice at its heart, the exhibition appears a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The gallery is already making contingency plans for 24-hour opening towards the end of its run if necessary.

Alison Smith, one of the Tate's curators, said what it illustrated was something that was often written about in art history books, but rarely seen in exhibitions. "It's about lineage," she said. "No artists are created in a vacuum."

Turner, who had been influenced by Claude Lorrain and Aelbert Cuyp, was important to Monet and Whistler, who came after him. All three created works that changed the course of landscape painting.

The exhibition has been a hit in Toronto and in Paris, where it was seen by more than 500,000 people. It runs until 15 May.