Eleven thought-provoking essays by a frequent contributor to Art in America and The New Criterion, in which parts of the present collection appeared in different form. Perl focuses his attention on such French masters as Matisse, Leger, Picasso, Braque, Giacometti, and Balthus, as well as on such lesser lights as Derain, Dufy, and Helion. Happily, in every case he is able to lend a new perspective to the appreciation of these painters. Discussing Raoul Dufy, for example, whose work was formerly dismissed by many as frivolous and ""decorative,"" Perl points out similarities between the French artist's ""bouillabaisse of Fauvist color and Cubist construction"" and Britain's Omega Workshop, which ""turned Fauvism and Primitivism into something that would look comfortable with the tea things."" Interestingly, both Dufy's works and those of such ""Bloomsberries"" as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant have been receiving increased attention now that ""decorative"" art has been accorded a new validity by both postmodernist artists and critics. Perl is thus to be thanked for helping restore Dufy's long-languishing reputation. On more familiar ground, the author/critic analyzes the late works of Picasso that recently received a drubbing from Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington in her Picasso (p. 595). In his subtly reasoned and sensitively written essay, Perl depicts the late works as expressions of ""the fissures that many sensed in [the] culture"" of the late 1960's, of the hippies in Haight-Ashbury, the crowds at Woodstock. Picasso, Perl suggests, was ""the wisest bacchant of them all."" A stimulating and valuable re-evaluation of post-WW I French painting. Fifty black-and-white illustrations.