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Flying high. Wiltshire Photo courtesy of Zoltan Szipola
Flying high. Wiltshire Photo courtesy of Zoltan Szipola

A picture's worth

(Video) Autistic savant Stephen Wiltshire adds Jerusalem to the list of breathtaking sketches he draws from memory. 'Jerusalem has a lot of details that don't make architectural sense. It was a challenge,' he says

Shlomit Sharvit
Published: 05.27.08, 13:31 / Israel Activism

VIDEO - Stephen Wiltshire needed just one hour of flying in Jerusalem's skies in order to sketch it, to amazing detail. The feat is even more amazing when you consider the fact that Wiltshire, a 34-year-old native of London, was diagnosed with autism at the age of five.


"Stephen didn't speak until he was five. He was diagnosed around that time and sent to a special-needs school," said Annette, his older sister. The only way of communication he had, she added, was through his drawings, which showed a maturity far beyond his years. The teachers used to take his papers away, trying to make him pronounced the words in order to get them back. Their efforts proved right – Stephen's first word, at nearly six years old – was "paper".


Video courtesy of Infolive.tv


Wiltshire has since become a one-time worldwide phenomenon. Since he was 13, he has visited New York, Tokyo, Madrid and Rome – to name a few – and has sketched all of them, in all their panoramic glory, from memory.


The Jerusalem Municipality has been trying to get him to visit the city for months. His visit was timed with the 40th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem and right around Jerusalem Day.

Photo: Zoltan Szipola


Wiltshire was taken around the city in a helicopter last week, and later spent three days in the Jerusalem City Hall, immortalizing his vision on a 13-foot canvas.


"Jerusalem was the most difficult city to sketch so far," he told Ynet. "there are a lot of details that don't make architectural sense. This was a challenge."


The Jerusalem Municipality also had Wiltshire meet with other special-need children: "The purpose of his visit is to increase public awareness to autism, and to the artistic potential of autistic children and teens," said the Jerusalem Social Directorate. Wiltshire also visited several centers in the city and gave the children a crash-course in sketching.


Wiltshire is one of the few autistic artists whose works have been preserved and cataloged since he first picked up pen and paper. They are revered as masterpieces and have been published in three books so far. His last book was at the top of the New York Times' bestsellers list for several weeks.


In 2006, he was named by Queen Elizabeth as a Member of the Order of the British Empire, later that year he opened his own gallery.


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