The student knowledgeable about modern art and armed with a hefty grain of salt will be able to reap something from this occasionally enlightening but ultimately disappointing biography of American muralist Thomas Hart Benton. Benton is portrayed as an artist in growth--experimenting, learning, failing, assimilating and rejecting influences, an approach that is particularly strong in regard to his formative years in New York and Paris. His defense against the harsh criticism of modernists is well stated, often in his own words: ""Art should be a living thing which has meaning for the public in general."" And, in an ironic twist, the art condemned by the 1930s leftist art elite was most appreciated by the masses. But the authors never convey the difference of spirit between Benton's Regionalism and the modernist movement, nor assess Benton's place in American art. There is evidence of thorough research that emerges in details, but the authors skirt the issues in favor of blather about ""the task for which he had been destined--to paint a wall with American meanings, for America.