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 drawings
are popular all over the
world, and are held in a number of museums and important private and public collections.
Stephen was born in London
, United Kingdom to West Indian parents on 24th April, 1974.
As a child he was mute, and did not relate to other people. 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.
The instructors 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. 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 he was about seven, Stephen became fascinated with sketching landmark London buildings.
One of Stephen's teachers took a particular
interest in him, who later accompanied his young
student on drawing excursions and entered his
work in children's art competitions, many of which
garnered Stephen awards. The local press became
increasingly suspicious as to how a young child
could produce such masterful drawings.
The media interest soon turned nationwide and
the 7 year old Stephen Wiltshire made his first
steps to launch his lifelong career. The same year
he sold his first work and by the time he turned 8,
he received his first commission from the British
Prime Minister to create a drawing
of Salisbury Cathedral.
In February 1987 Stephen appeared in The Foolish Wise Ones. (The show also featured savants with
musical and mathematical talents.) During his segment Hugh Casson, a former president of London's
Royal Academy of Arts, referred to him as "possibly the best child artist in Britain."
Casson introduced Stephen to Margaret Hewson, a literary agent who helped Stephen field incoming
book deals and soon became a trusted mentor. She helped Stephen publish his first book, Drawings
(1987), a volume of his early sketches that featured a preface by Casson. Hewson, known for her
careful stewardship of her clients' financial interests, made sure a trust was established in Stephen's
name so that his fees and royalties were used wisely.
Hewson arranged Stephen's first trip abroad, to New York City, where he sketched such legendary
skyscrapers as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as part of a feature being prepared
by the London-based International Television News. Meanwhile in New York Stephen met Oliver Sacks.
Sacks was fascinated by the young artist, and the two struck up a long friendship; Sacks would
ultimately write extensively about Stephen. The resulting illustrations from his visit - along with
sketches of sites in the London Docklands, Paris, and Edinburgh - formed the basis for his second
(1989), which also included some drawings of purely imaginary metropolises.
At about this time Stephen embarked on a
drawing tour of Venice, Amsterdam, Leningrad,
and Moscow, attracting crowds wherever he
stopped to draw. He was accompanied part of the
time by Sacks, who was conducting research for a
new book on Stephen's story. These drawings testify
to an assured draughtsmanship and an ability to
convey complex perspective with consummate
ease. But more importantly, they reveal his
mysterious creative ability to capture the
sensibility of a building and that which determines
its character and its voice. It is this genius which
sets him apart and confers upon him the status
of artist. His third book, Floating Cities
(1991), contains the elaborate drawings he made on the tour.
In 1992 Stephen accepted the invitation of a Tokyo-based television company to tour Japan and
make drawings of various landmark structures, including the Tokyo metropolitan government
building, in Shinjuku, and the Ginza shopping district. He then traveled to America once again, a trip
that resulted in the book American Dream
(1993), which featured cityscapes of Chicago,
San Francisco, and New York, as well as the desert landscape of Arizona.
Meanwhile, Stephen's artwork was 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 late 2003 the Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, England, held the first major retrospective of
Wiltshire's works, spanning a period of 20 years; more than 40,000 visitors attended the exhibit,
shattering the gallery's attendance records.
Stephen took on his largest project to date in May 2005, when he returned to Tokyo
to make a
panoramic drawing - the largest of his career - of the city. Two months later he drew a similarly
detailed picture of Rome
, including the Vatican and St. Peter's Cathedral, entirely from memory.
In December, after a 20-minute helicopter ride, Stephen spent a week creating a 10-meter-long
drawing of Hong Kong's
Victoria Harbour and the surrounding urban scene. (He dedicated the work
as a Christmas present to the city's residents.) Later on he added Frankfurt, Madrid
to his collection.
The following drawing in the series was of his
spiritual home, New York
where he embarked a
five day marathon drawing on a 6 metres canvas live on CBS.
Further trips followed to Syndey
, Houston, TX
, Mexico City
and Doha, Qatar
Contrary to the popular misconception that Stephen is only interested in capturing architecture and
classic american cars, he often draws portraits of celebrities and close friends in his private sketchbook.
Stephen started creating caricatures of his teachers at primary school, and has since then produced
many caricature 'snap shots' documenting amusing incidents encountered on his trips abroad as well.
Stephen Wiltshire's passion for buildings, cityscapes and skylines continuously inspires him to revisit
his favourite cities as well as discover new destinations while travelling the world. In a recent
interview in New York he revealed that the most intriguing qualities of an exciting city must have
'chaos and order at the same time, the avenues and squares, skyscrapers as well as traffic jams, the
chaotic rush hour and people'.
In January 2006 it was announced that Stephen
was being named by Queen Elizabeth II as a
Member of the Order of the British Empire, in
recognition of his services to the art world.
"It's an absolute honour," his sister, Annette, told
Geoffrey Wansell for the London Daily Mail
(January 3, 2006). "It brought tears to my Mum's
eyes and to mine, because we've all worked so
hard for Stephen."
Later that year, with the encouragement of
Annette and her husband, Zoltan, Stephen
Wiltshire founded his own permanent art gallery
in London's Royal Opera Arcade, London's oldest
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
150,000 visitors attend his exhibition in just 5 days,
setting an attendance record in the history of the
Trips followed to Istanbul, Houston, Mexico City and Doha, Qatar. In 2019, the newly redesigned 80th floor observatory of the Empire State Building, New York officially reopened bearing Stephen's design based on his panorama drawing of the city he created in 2017 in the very same building as a part of his live drawing show. The $165 million redevelopment also includes a new 10,000 square feet museum space where visitors can purchase reproductions of our artist's work.
In the same year Stephen's new movie titled Billions of Windows premiered in London at Everyman Cinema in front of close fans and supporters. After 15 years in late 2019, the Gallery moved to Notting Hill in West London, where Stephen and his team welcome visitors in his private studio he now calls The Wiltshire Pad.
Stephen continues to draw every day and discover new cities and new methods to capture the world around us. His motto remains 'Do the best you can, and never stop'.