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PARIS (Reuters) - Thousands of art lovers queued in freezing temperatures on Saturday night for a final glimpse of a major retrospective on French Impressionist Claude Monet, after Paris' Grand Palais opened round the clock to cope with demand.
Wrapped in scarves and heavy coats, people queued for more than three hours to see the nearly 200 works by the 19th century master before the historic exhibition, the biggest one on Monet in decades, closes on Monday evening.
Staff from the museum brought hot drinks and slices of cake to keep up their spirits, and a clarinetist serenaded the shivering crowds.
Jean-Paul Cluzel, chairman of the Grand Palais, said the museum had decided to keep its doors open continuously from Friday to cope with the record number of visitors, expected to total nearly 1 million since the exhibition opened in late September.
"The three nights add up to 40,000 more visitors," Cluzel told Reuters TV. "There is a special experience, a special feeling when you visit such an exhibition by night. You're going out of a show, you're going out of a discotheque and then you dive into art, into painting, colours."
Some of the Parisians waiting outside confessed they had already seen the exhibition. For others, it was the highlight of a visit to the French capital.
"I'm painting myself in a way that Monet is doing and that's why I'm waiting here for three hours in the cold," said Bram Steenys from Holland. "And if it takes more than three hours, I think my feet should be amputated."
Among those braving the cold for a late-night viewing was American movie star Jodie Foster.
"I came all the way here (to Paris) to work and then I got sidetracked and decided to go see the Monet," she told Reuters.
Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Tim Pearce