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THE £29m development for the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy opens in Edinburgh at the restored and refurbished Royal Scottish Academy on August 2 with Monet: The Seine and the Sea: Vétheuil and Normandy 1878-1883 as its first exhibition, only to be shown in Edinburgh. This will bring together around 80 paintings by the Impressionist master, dating from the years he spent in Vétheuil, a small town on the banks of the Seine near Vernon, and this body of work, from rural Vétheuil landscapes to seascapes of the Normandy coast, has not hitherto been the focus of a major exhibition, nor indeed of a book. It is to this book that the exhibition is linked.

With his wife Camille and their two young children, Monet shared a rented house with the Hoschedé family – Ernest Hoschedé, a former patron of Monet and other Impressionist painters, had lost most of personal wealth through a series of disastrous business ventures. This period in Monet’s life was a time of hardship and personal angst, and while he was painting some of his best-known works, using a bateau atelier as a floating studio, and selling his pictures for as little as 50 francs, his wife was dying.

A painter and a maritime art expert, David Joel holidayed by boat along the Seine between Paris and the sea and, passing Vétheuil during a rainstorm, was so impressed with the Monet view of the church on the hill that he decided to explore the many Monet sites between Vernon and Vétheuil.

This delightfully evocative book, which weaves the story of Monet’s time at Vétheuil and on the Normandy coast through pictures and narrative, has originations from the Antique Collectors’ Club taken from family archives and photographs, and the illustrations are for the most part excellent. These include the hauntingly sad La Promenade, la femme à l’ombrelle – The Walk, Camille and Jean Monet and the National Gallery of Scotland’s own powerful Monet painting; L’Eglise de Vétheuil. Monet’s many fans will soon be on that particular art history trail. My only grump is that the book’s cover image is not nearly as strong or as interesting in content as the two pictures already mentioned.