Alice Spawls at the Times Literary Supplement:
Paul Nash was born in May 1889, during the twilight of the Victorians. His father William was a barrister, and the three Nash children – Paul the eldest, his brother John and sister Barbara – grew up at Iver Heath, in spacious, ordered Buckinghamshire countryside. The landscape beyond their garden was one of cornfields and copses, elms, pines and water-drenched alder carrs. Nash later recalled his schooldays as a “long and complicated purgatory”; his strongest impressions were of “misery, humiliation and fear”. Bad at sums and bad at sports, and not even particularly good at drawing, the only prize he won was in the consolation cup race at sports day. His lacklustre academic life was overcast by familial unease. Nash realized at a young age that there was “some trouble haunting our home. Often mother seemed disinclined to eat”. Caroline Nash was subject to depressions, and other, stronger incapacitations that saw her spend long periods in nursing homes and psychiatric wards. Paul himself was physically fragile and ill at ease in the world, seeking out intense relationships with certain spots where he was free from adult supervision: the garden at Iver Heath and a shady part of Kensington Gardens (which he called “my first authentic place”) were the first. Books, too, were a solace and retreat.