ART enthusiasts in the region are being offered a final chance to see one of the biggest collections of Impressionist paintings to visit the North-East.

The Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, County Durham, will close its Road to Impressionism exhibition, which has already attracted thousands of visitors from around the country, at the end of the month.

And in a bid to encourage more people to visit the display, the museum is offering people free admission on March 22, which curators at the attraction hope will draw hundreds more art lovers to the exhibition.

The display features paintings by renowned artists such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro, and more have been brought together from all over the country to complement the museum's collection of Impressionist paintings.

The exhibition, through paintings and historical documents, traces the developments of French landscape painting from the early 19th Century to the Impressionist movement.

Josephine Bowes, co-founder of The Bowes Museum and an amateur painter herself, died in 1874, the year of the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris.

During her lifetime she collected the works of a number of major French artists such as Courbet, Fantin-Latour and Boudin.

These artists created key works that led to the Impressionist movement.

Museum director Adrian Jenkins said: "We have been extremely pleased with the success of the exhibition and it has attracted an increased number of visitors to the museum this winter.

"It is a spectacular show so we are urging everyone not to miss the opportunity to see it before it ends."

On March 22, the museum's curators will give a series of talks, live music will play throughout the galleries, and John and Josephine Bowes, who founded the museum in the late 19th Century, will be making a "guest" appearance.

The exhibition, which opened in November, will close on March 30. For further details, contact the museum on (01833) 690606.