Stephen Wiltshire is known as a human camera – he studies skylines, and then draws them from memory.
Wiltshire is an artist able to look at a skyline and then draw or paint it. “He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly,” his website says in its introduction.
Here he is at work, smashing it with a panoramic drawing of the New York skyline!
He holds an MBE for services to the art world, awarded to him in 2006. He has recently been honored with the 2016 Golden Jubilee Award for outstanding service to the UK. He hosts live drawing sessions, has been featured in ads, and is currently held in a large number of very important art collections. Basically, as far as the art world is concern, he’s pretty important.
Central Park – New York City
Wiltshire is also autistic, suffers from severe speech difficulties, and was almost mute as a child.
He was first featured in a BBC program on Savant Syndrome when he was 12 in 1987. Savant Syndrome is a condition in which people with a developmental disability, such as autism, demonstrate profound abilities beyond what we could consider normal.
Pont d’Alexandre – Paris
On this program, Stephen drew from memory a sketch of St. Pancras station, London that he had visited only hours before, for the first time. Most notably, he drew the clock hands at 11:20, the exact time of day that he had viewed the scene. Since then, there has been a remarkable demand for Stephen’s work.
Stephen’s Savant Syndrome is not an isolated case. The idea of the savant has been presented in the media in movies such as Rain Man, and is not exclusive to autism. Those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and other learning and mental disabilities can also show signs of the syndrome, such as the poet and painter Tommy McHugh, or the calendar counting twins, George and Charles Finn. The pianist Leslie Lemke was born with cerebral palsy, and can play nearly a dozen instruments, on top of recalling every musical piece he’s ever learned and played.
Manhattan – New York
In an introduction to one of Stephen’s collections, a book entitled Drawings, Sir Hugh Casson introduces Stephen: “Happily, every now and then, a rocket of young talent explodes and continues to shower us with its sparks.”
A gondola ride in Venice
In the 2001 documentary, Fragments of Genius by the BBC, Stephen is taken for a brief helicopter ride above London. Later, he completes a three-hour-long, detailed, and accurate drawing of London from the air. The drawing itself contains four square miles, scaled down, with twelve major landmarks, and 200 other buildings, drawn to perspective and scale perfectly.
Stephen Wiltshire continues to shower us with those sparks, rocketing on into artistic fame.