Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Wed, 04.24.1974

Stephen Wiltshire, Autistic Artist born.

Stephen Wiltshire

*Stephen Wiltshire was born on this date in 1974. He is a Black British architectural autistic savant artist.

Stephen Wiltshire was born in London; his father, Colvin, was a native of Barbados, and his mother, Geneva, is a native of St. Lucia. He grew up in Little Venice, Maida Vale, London. Wiltshire was non-verbal when young.

At three, he was diagnosed with autism the same year his father died in a motorbike accident. At five, Wiltshire went to Queensmill School in London, where he expressed interest in drawing. His early illustrations depicted animals and cars; he is still extremely interested in American cars and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them. When Wiltshire was about seven, it became fascinated with sketching landmark London buildings. After being shown a book of photos depicting the devastation wrought by earthquakes, he began to create detailed architectural drawings of imaginary cityscapes.

Wiltshire can look at a subject once and then draw an accurate and detailed picture. When he was ten, Wiltshire drew a sequence of drawings of London landmarks, one for each letter, that he called a "London Alphabet." In 1987, Wiltshire was part of the BBC program The Foolish Wise Ones.  Drawings, a collection of his works, was published that same year. Between 1995 and his graduation in 1998, Wiltshire attended the City and Guilds of London Art School in South London.

He frequently draws entire cities from memory based on single, brief helicopter rides. After a helicopter ride above London, he produced a four-square-mile detailed drawing of the city. His nineteen-foot-long drawing of 305 square miles of New York City is also based on a helicopter ride. He also draws fictional scenes, such as St. Paul's Cathedral surrounded by flames.

Wiltshire's early books include Drawings (1987), Cities (1989), Floating Cities (1991), and Stephen Wiltshire's American Dream (1993). In 1989, Wiltshire appeared on the cover of 'You' magazine with actor Dustin Hoffman, who had portrayed an autistic savant in the 1988 film Rain Man, one of Wiltshire's' favorite movies. Wiltshire is an MBE, Hon.FSAI, and Hon.FSSAA; his work has been the subject of many TV documentaries. In 2003, a retrospective of his work, 'Not a Camera: the Unique Vision of Stephen Wiltshire,' was held in the Orleans House gallery in London.

In 2005, Wiltshire produced his longest-ever panoramic memory drawing of Tokyo on a 32.8-foot-long canvas within seven days following a helicopter ride over the city. He has drawn Rome, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem, and London on giant canvasses. When Wiltshire took the helicopter ride over Rome, he drew it in such detail that he drew the exact number of columns in the Pantheon. In October 2009, Wiltshire completed the last work in the series of panoramas, an 18-foot memory drawing of his "spiritual home," New York City.

In 2010, he made a panorama of Sydney to raise funds for and awareness of Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). He visited the Bermuda National Gallery, where the sale of his donated drawing of Hamilton raised over $22,000. In June 2010, Christie's auctioned off his oil painting Times Square at Night. In 2014, Wiltshire drew an aerial panorama of the Singapore skyline from memory. The artwork was a gift to the nation to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday in 2015.

In 2006, Wiltshire became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for art services and opened his permanent gallery. In July 2009, he was an ambassador for Children's Art Day in the United Kingdom. 2011, Wiltshire became an honorary Fellow of the Society of Architectural Illustration (SAI). In January 2015, Wiltshire became an honorary Fellow of The Scottish Society of Architect Artists. Stephen Wiltshire's feature-length documentary Billions of Windows premiered in London in November 2019.

To be an Artist

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

White men handed papers to my mother through a cracked door. We had to get boxes from the liquor store & watch her get drunk. Before, just yesterday, my... EVICTION by Michelle Clinton.
Read More