In septuagenarian Eric Newton's colorful, cogent assessment, the art world's romantic era began by way of literature (Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, aesthetician Schlegel's replacing of the ""beautiful"" with the ""interesting""); soon the absolutes of classicism were gone: inspiration dethroned observation, emotion drubbed out harmony, and painting mushroomed on a three-pronged front via mystery (meaning the mythic and mystical), the abnormal (scenes of moonlight rather than daylight), and conflict (Man versus Nature versus God). But most of the chapters concern such old world influences as Giorgione and Michelangelo, Grunewald and Bosch, along with the more pertinent precursors (El Greco's Byzantine terrors, Watteau's elegant nostalgia), plus similarities between Altdorfer and Carravagio, differences between Courbet and Velasquez. Romanticists proper include, of course, Turner's pantheistic visions, the Browningesque toughness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Delacroix's odalisques. Concluding commentary centers on the 1910 breakdown of subject matter, the rise of Picasso and Klee and the resultant debut of abstract expressionism, after which all categorizing and, adds critic Newton curtly, all criticism fades out. Occasionally donnish and ogmatic, generally a polished performance.