Richard Wawro, Artist



Richard Wawro (pronounced Vavro) was born in 1952. When he was three years old his parents were told that he was moderately to severely retarded. He also showed considerable autistic behavior with the characteristic obsession for sameness, withdrawal, walking in circles, spinning objects endlessly, and a preoccupation with the piano striking a single key for hours at a time. He did not have useful language until the age of 11. He required surgery for cataracts on both eyes during childhood.

Richard began drawing on a chalkboard at about age 3. He immediately covered the tiny chalkboard with numerous images. At age 6 he entered a Children's Center where he was introduced to drawing with crayons where his immense talent was immediately apparent.

When Richard was 12 years old, Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko of the Polish School of Art in London viewed Richard's drawings and was "thunderstruck"; he described his works as an "incredible phenomenon rendered with the precision of a mechanic and the vision of a poet."

Like other savants Richard had a phenomenal memory. He remembered where he drew each picture and had each of them precisely dated in his mind. He used no models for his drawings, but drew from images seen only once, on television or in a book at one of the bookshops he loved to visit. He had perfect recall but often added his own touches, interpretations or improvisation to the images. He seemed especially fascinated, and facile, with light - its sources and its dispersion - and the tones he uses to capture lights and shadows are masterful.

For Richard art was his life and his love. He took pride in his talent and loved to share it. At the completion of each picture Richard would take it to his father for approval and then received appropriate and deserved compliments, followed by a mini-celebration in which he and his father raised joined hands in a sort of present-day high-five. He and his father shared an unmistakeable enthusiasm and appreciation for each other. Richard's mother, who also loved and appreciated him unconditionally, died in 1979 but in spite of their closeness, Richard's work did not stop. Richard's father died in 2002.

Richard had his first exhibition in Edinburgh when he was 17 years old. Now he is known worldwide and has sold over 1000 pictures in over 100 exhibitions. One of his exhibitions was opened by Margaret Thatcher when she was Minister of Education. She owns several of his pictures as did the late Pope John Paul II. A very impressive and moving documentary about Richard called "With Eyes Wide Open" had its world premiere in 1983 and has won numerous awards in many countries. Dr. Laurence Becker who produced that film states "it enables the viewer to experience Richard Wawro as a highly gifted artist and as a person. It reveals the nurturing environments that enabled Richard's spirit and talent to grow and develop. It is as though deep within him that 'spirit was clamoring to be free' and for himself and for each viewer or his art, his drawing sets it free. This remarkable artist's life and his art provide abundant evidence of the quality and persistence of the human, creative spirit."

A videotape entitled A Real Rainman, Portrait of an Autistic Savant was also produced by Dr. Becker and is now available. For more information about Richard Wawro, his art and the documentary film or videotape, you can contact Dr. Laurence A. Becker at Creative Learning Environments, 507 Park Blvd, Austin, Texas 78751 or he can be reached by email at

Richard died on February 22nd, 2006 after a brave fight against cancer. His obituary can be read here and here.


Richard Wawro