THE Currier Gallery of Art, in Manchester, N.H., is a proud little sister to the nation's great metropolitan museums. Since it cannot approach them in size, it tries to rival them in quality. The public favorite at the gallery is a masterpiece of the airiest sort: Claude Monet's dappled evocation of a vacation on the Seine (opposite).

Monet probably painted the picture in 1869, when he was a young man and a failure, living in abject poverty and painting in perfect joy. Renoir used to drop in at Bougival with a loaf of bread to keep Monet going. Five years later,...

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