British Artist With Autism Draws Cities From Memory.

British artist Stephen Wiltshire works on a hand-drawn panorama of the skyline of New York, from a studio at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn October 28, 2009. The 18 foot (5.5 m) long panorama is being drawn from memory and will be displayed in the London gallery, which has similar drawings Wiltshire drew of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt, Dubai and Jerusalem. REUTERS/Chip East (UNITED STATES SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT)

Meet Stephen Wiltshire the autistic artist who can draw entire cityscapes from memory.

The artist was born in London to West Indian parents on 24th April 1974. When he was a child Wiltshire was mute and could not communicate. By age three he was diagnosed as having autism. As a result of this he had no language and was effectively living in his own world.

When Wiltshire was five, he started  attending  Queensmill School in London, it was noticed the one pastime he enjoyed was drawing. This included, London red busses, animals and buildings. His sketches showed an innate artistry.

When teachers started to take note of his talent, they discovered taking away the young Wiltshire drawing equipment, would force him to communicate, so he could get his things back. It is here when he first uttered his first word, “paper”.  One of his teachers also started entering his drawings in art competitions, this garnered local attention for the then prodigal 8-year-old. This popularity reached the ear of the British Prime Minister, who then commissioned him to draw the Salisbury Cathedral.

This would be the first of many commissions the artist would have. One of his most impressive project is that he drew the entire New York Skyline after just one helicopter ride. This was all done on a 19-foot canvas, and he had only viewed the city for 20 minutes. You can see snippets of him undertaking the project and other ambitious panoramic drawings of the cities of Houston and Sydney. This is all available on his youtube page and website.

Sydney Opera House and skyline drawing by Stephen Wiltshire
Sydney Opera House and skyline

His sister Annette Wiltshire said in an interview with the New York Times, “That he has a gift makes no sense at all to Stephen”.  She also said  “He knows that he draws very well, but he picks that up from other people — he sees the warmth on their faces, they tell him how much they like his work, and that makes him very happy. He loves the attention.”

In 2006 Wiltshire and his family received the news that he was to be honoured by the Queen for services to the art world and he received his OBE.

In the months following his OBE, and with encouragement from his sister Stephen opened his own permanent art gallery on London’s Royal Opera Arcade  In July 2014, Stephen was commissioned by Singapore PH to create a panoramic drawing of the city, which became part of the National Collection of Singapore to celebrate the nation’s 50th birthday. The time-lapse video of Wiltshire drawing the panoramic view of Singapore has amassed nearly 180,000 views on youtube.

Since then, Wiltshire has set the record for attendance since 150,000 people flocked to his exhibition within five days.

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