In 1900 Britain, along with many other western nations, provided a congenial environment in which artistic excellence could flourish. This did not come about by publicly funded subsidies, or active government intervention. Instead, a cultured middle class, seeking self-improvement for its own sake, provided an appreciative audience in which individuals of rare genius could shine. It is instructive to take a look at the level of artistic attainment produced in the early years of the last century, a process in which Britain played a full part. In music, Elgar and Delius were at the height of their powers. The novels of Thomas Hardy, H G Wells have endured, as have the Sherlock Holmes stories of Conan Doyle. Poetry of distinction was represented by Rudyard Kipling and W.B.Yeats, the latter of Irish extraction, as was George Bernard Shaw who was attaining eminence in the field of drama. In architecture, the cathedrals of Westminster and Liverpool began, and Lutyens, Voysey and Macintosh, each in his own way added variety and insight to housing design. In the field of painting Steer, Alma-Tadema and the expatriate Sargent were prominent. Many other European countries achieved similarly spectacular levels of excellence.
By contrast, 'artistic' work feted by the today’s liberal establishment defies all belief with its worthlessness, pretension and degradation. New 'serious' music consists entirely of atonal sound without harmony, melody or recognisable structure. Popular music is dominated by rap and dance genres where the wholly talentless masquerade under the illusion that 'hip' and 'cool' equates to musical ability. In art we have the insultingly named Turner Prize, where the only criterion for recognition is the ability to provoke a phoney outrage from a jaded public. For literature we are expected to acclaim novels splattered by the expletives of junkies, or infantile rhyming in a debased ethnic patois. This detritus can mercifully be ignored by those of education, refinement and discernment. Unfortunately, this does not apply to architecture where all of us are confronted daily with the brutalism of the sixties and its more recent replacement, the Mickey Mouse 'post-modernism' that became institutionalised in the eighties and nineties. It is difficult to credit how far our society could have sunk in less than a century.