Stephen Wiltshire is an artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes. He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly. He was awarded an MBE for services to the art world in 2006. He studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College. His work is popular all over the world, and is held in a number of important collections.
Stephen was born in London to West Indian parents on 24th April, 1974. As a child he was mute, and did not relate to other human beings. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language and lived entirely in his own world.
At the age of five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London, where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became apparent he communicated with the world through the language of drawing; first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. These drawings show a masterful perspective, a whimsical line, and reveal a natural innate artistry.
Aged eight, Stephen started drawing cityscapes after the effects of an earthquake (all imaginary), as a result of being shown photographs of earthquakes in a book at school. He also became obsessed with illustrations of classic American cars at this time (his knowledge of them is encyclopaedic), and he drew most of the major London landmarks.
The teachers at Queensmill School encouraged him to speak by temporarily taking away his art supplies so that he would be forced to ask for them. Stephen responded by making sounds and eventually uttered his first word – “paper.” He learned to speak fully at the age of nine.
In 1987, the BBC QED programme, ‘The Foolish Wise Ones’, featured Stephen’s astounding talent. Stephen was introduced by Sir Hugh Casson (past president of the Royal Academy), who described him as “the best child artist in Britain”. Stephen’s work has since been the subject of numerous television programmes around the world. He has been featured in many books, and his own third book Floating Cities (1991) was number one in the Sunday Times Bestseller List.
Meanwhile, Stephen’s artworks were being exhibited frequently in venues all over the world. In 2001 he appeared in another BBC documentary, ‘Fragments of Genius’, for which he was filmed flying over London aboard a helicopter, and subsequently completing a detailed and perfectly scaled aerial illustration of a four-square-mile area within three hours. His drawing included 12 historic landmarks and 200 other structures.
In October and November 2003, thousands flocked to the Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, near London, England, to see the first major retrospective of Stephen’s work. The exhibition covered the 20-year period, from 1983 to 2003, and comprised 150 examples of Stephen’s drawings, paintings and prints.
In May 2005, following a short helicopter ride over Tokyo, he drew a stunningly detailed panoramic view of the city on a 10-meter-long canvas, from memory. Since then he has drawn Rome, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem and London on giant canvasses. The last drawing in the series will be of his spiritual home, New York. He will be completing his masterpiece at the world famous design school, the Pratt Institute in New York in late October 2009.
In January 2006, it was announced that Stephen was being named by Queen Elizabeth II as a Member of the British Empire, in recognition of his services to the Art world. Later that year he opened his permanent gallery in London. Work from Stephen’s entire career is permanently on display, alongside new originals and prints available for sale at the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery in the Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London. READ ON…