The likelihood of New Yorkers heading to Ohio to see paintings at the Toledo Museum of Art is not great, although the odds may increase among those who visit the new exhibition at The Frick Collection. The show, titled "Masterpieces of European Painting from the Toledo Museum of Art," continuing through January 5, 2003, is not only striking for what it contains, but it is a great introduction to the source institution.

A visit to the Frick is always a pleasure, what with its lovely garden area and the intimacy it provides in contrast to city's sprawling museums. On this occasion, there is the opportunity to contemplate a dozen paintings by masters and give more attention to them because of the limited nature of the exhibition so high in quality. Favorites? There is a stunning, absolutely beautiful painting, "The Adoration of the Child," by Piero di Cosimo," a work that captures both the religious fervor and natural surroundings and uses color magnificently.

A totally different experience is provided by James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot's "London Visitors," dated 1874, a scene set on the steps of Britain's National gallery, with a view of the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in the background. The colors are muted, and along with tourists surveying the area there is a young student in his long uniform coat. Gazing at the compelling picture, one can ponder what the future might be like for this young man growing up into the turbulent world ahead.

Antoine-Jean Gros's "Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau: (1807) is a sprawling war scene with bodies in the foreground, Napoleon on horseback and far in the background rows of soldiers and burning wreckage beyond them. The effect is especially powerful as it mixes the aura of authority with the devastating reality of battle. In contrast is the lovely, soothing "Still Life" by Camille Pissarro. El Greco is represented by the dynamic "The Agony in the Garden," dating to the 1590s, depicting a period when Christ took refuge on the Mount of Olives with three disciples between the Last Supper and his arrest. In one sense the work is a literal recollection, but there is also a broad conceptual sweep to various elements that El Greco included.

Certainly one of the most impressive is Jacopo Bassano's "The Flight into Egypt," a moving, realistic view of the Holy Family escaping from Bethlehem to avoid the murder of the Christ child by Herod. Mary, wearing a flowing, dark green robe, is clutching the naked infant, as she rides along in the entourage on a donkey. The painting is rich in detail in foreground and background.

Other artists represented are Francesco Primaticcio, Thomas de Keyser, François Boucher, Gustave Courbet, Thomas Gainsborough and Paul Cézanne. The period covered is from the early Italian Renaissance to late 19th century France. The Toledo Museum was founded in 1901, with the key figure in its establishment being industrialist Edward Drummond Libbey, whose art collection formed the core of the museum, which in the last century has gathered a total of more than 30,000 works. The Frick is doing a major service in calling attention to the noted institution with this well-chosen sampling of its treasures. At The Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street. Phone: 212-288-0700.

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