For Philip Larkin, the baleful influence of "modernism" on 20th century culture was embodied in "the three Ps": Pound, Picasso, and Parker (Charlie). Of course, we should bear in mind that Larkin was wont to play the role of reactionary Philistine in order to get a rise out of people (particularly interviewers). But he was entirely serious. And he was entirely correct.
His best discussion of the subject is found in a somewhat out-of-the-way place: his introduction to All What Jazz, a collection of the record (yes, record) reviews that he wrote for The Daily Telegraph in the Sixties and early Seventies. The discussion occurs in the context of Larkin's explanation of his increasing disenchantment with jazz:
"All I am saying is that the term 'modern,' when applied to art, has a more than chronological meaning: it denotes a quality of irresponsibility peculiar to this century, known sometimes as modernism, and once I had classified modern jazz under this heading I knew where I was. I am sure there are books in which the genesis of modernism is set out in full. My own theory is that it is related to an imbalance between the two tensions from which art springs: these are the tension between the artist and his material, and between the artist and his audience, and that in the last seventy-five years or so the second of these has slackened or even perished. In consequence the artist has become over-concerned with his material (hence an age of technical experiment), and, in isolation, has busied himself with the two principal themes of modernism, mystification and outrage."
Philip Larkin, All What Jazz (Faber and Faber 1970; second edition, 1985), page 23.
Larkin then enumerates (entertainingly) some of the typical products of modernism:
"Piqued at being neglected, he has painted portraits with both eyes on the same side of the nose, or smothered a model with paint and rolled her over a blank canvas. He has designed a dwelling-house to be built underground. He has written poems resembling the kind of pictures typists make with their machines during the coffee break, or a novel in gibberish, or a play in which the characters sit in dustbins. He has made a six-hour film of someone asleep. He has carved human figures with large holes in them. And parallel to this activity ('every idiom has its idiot,' as an American novelist has written) there has grown up a kind of critical journalism designed to put it over."
Ibid. The examples given by Larkin (he was writing in 1968) now seem almost quaint given what has passed for "art" and "literature" in the intervening years.
Larkin closes as follows:
"I dislike such things not because they are new, but because they are irresponsible exploitations of technique in contradiction of human life as we know it. This is my essential criticism of modernism, whether perpetrated by Parker, Pound or Picasso: it helps us neither to enjoy nor endure. It will divert us as long as we are prepared to be mystified or outraged, but maintains its hold only by being more mystifying and more outrageous: it has no lasting power."
Ibid, page 27. Larkin adds a footnote to "Parker, Pound or Picasso" in the above passage: "The reader will have guessed by now that I am using these pleasantly alliterative names to represent not only their rightful owners but every practitioner who might be said to have succeeded them."
Alas, the horses have long been gone from the barn. But, as I have suggested before, perhaps each generation feels that this is so. In any case, as "civilization" and "culture" at large go their merry and horrific way, it is always up to someone -- a monk in a dim cell copying manuscripts in the Dark Ages -- to preserve what is of true value. (Well, that's sorted. I will now descend from the soapbox.)