Diagnosed with autism at age three, Stephen Wiltshire is now famous for producing highly detailed scenes after just a brief glance.
Today, Stephen Wiltshire is one of Britain’s best-known artists. His commissions have a four- to eight-month waiting list, and videos of him sketching panoramic cityscapes in perfect scale have a tendency to go viral.
Later he began drawing the buildings he was seeing around London with impressive detail. His older sister Annette would take him to the home of a school friend who lived on the 14th floor of an apartment building, so he could see a sprawling view of the city. He marveled at its layout and landmarks. From that point on, she says, “his passion became obsessive.”
Photograph by Paolo Woods, National Geographic
At age eight, he got his first commission—from the British prime minister. Language didn’t come easily until the next year, but by age 13, he had published his first book of drawings. The public and the media became fascinated by the young teen’s incredible memory. Stephen was featured on television shows and in documentaries about so-called savants.
On a trip to New York for an interview, he met Oliver Sacks and drew a perfect replica of the neurologist’s house after taking a quick glance at it. “The combination of great abilities with great disabilities presents an extraordinary paradox: how can such opposites live side by side?” Sacks later wrote in the foreword to Wiltshire’s second book.