Written by a critic whose comments here should solidify his recognition in many corners of the art world, this is a book that not only lucidly surveys the contemporary painting scene in America but makes its progress fascinating and entertaining to layman and connoisseur alike. Though his comments and analyses follow a conventional chronological outline, Mr. Blesh has a facility of expression and an aptitude for placement that make his chapters trenchant and witty and his outline especially clear in perspective. Following through material on the vacuum in American painting during the 1900's when people were more concerned with art's duty than ability, the faint but marked impression of such as the Fauves and the Steins in Paris and Alfred Steiglitz' small ""peep hole"" on modern art at his New York gallery, the Armory show of 1913 and the artistic riot it caused, and the final beginning of other galleries to handle modern art-the reader soon sees a picture of progress beginning to jell. Though all was not well by the 20's, modern art was at least here to stay. The remainder of the book, discussing the events that led climactically to the Museum of Modern Art and talking most entertainingly and perceptively of the artists themselves from the forerunners like Cezanne to the avant garde led by de Kooning, Pollock and the abstract expressionists, presents a step by step definition of art too in the process. A definitely healthy study that should give direction to the newest artistic theories and prod old ones loose from shaky moorings.