Savant David Barth and his amazing world of art

By Zhang Junmian
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 7, 2012
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David Barth, a 13-year-old autistic boy from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has captivated visitors with his stunningly lifelike and detailed drawings, especially those on animals. His work will be displayed at two exhibitions held in the C-NA Gallery and the Inside-out Art Museum in Beijing to mark World Autism Awareness Month in April 2012.

David Barth (left) and his mother Inge Barth-Wagemaker at the opening ceremony of the 5th Annual Art Exhibition by Autistic Children held at Beijing's Inside-out Art Museum on April 2. [Photo by Zhang Junmian/]

This is David and his family's first time coming to Beijing. He is tall, quiet and shy, but very nice to speak with, though he himself suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

David is highly self-motivated. "I love drawing so much, because it gives me a great deal of fun," said David. "If possible, I hope I can draw for my whole life." He claimed that his idol is Leonardo Da Vinci, an Italian Renaissance polymath. When asked why he chose Da Vinci as his role model, David said: "He is good at everything: painting, music, architecture and math."

David's mother, Inge Barth-Wagemaker, is a teacher currently working on a project for adults with autism. She said that she was astonished to see David discovering his gift for drawing when he was only two years old, when he could barely hold a pencil. Originally David only had an interest in animals, but he gradually started enjoying more subjects, including animals, human figures, situation scenes and comics. The left-handed artist creates his works from observing nature, using his quick memory and creative imagination. His dad, Luuk Barth, said that the boy often depicts himself as the hero in his situation sketches.

"Not Just Reptiles", by David Barth [Photo by Zhang Junmian/]

David doesn't perform well in mathematics, and can easily get lost. However, with his special gift given to him by autism, he can draw as if everything is readily prepared in his mind. Inge Barth-Wagemaker said: "David learned how to draw by himself. He can complete simple drawings very quickly, but more complicated sketches may take him several days or even weeks."

David perceives the world in a unique way, and has his own insight on artistic creation. In addition, his attention to small detail helps shape his amazing style. As a result, his work usually features superb composition, fine colors, accuracy and incredible details. They often look just like photos. This natural and prodigious talent often reminds people of Stephen Wiltshire, a world-renowned British autistic artist who enjoyed a spectacular ability to draw precise, detailed panoramas of cityscapes from memory.

"Birds", by David Barth [] 

David's animal drawings are especially remarkable, and there seems to be an animal kingdom in his heart. In his drawing "Birds," David depicted 397 different species of birds, and he clearly knows the Latin names of most of them, as well as their living habits. This drawing has been included into the American book "Drawing Autism (2009)," which features works from about 50 autistic artists from all over the world. "But this work is not for sale, as it has been preserved by his grandma and grandpa," said Inge Barth-Wagemaker.

With the help and encouragement from his mother, the artist published his first picture book "Poeperlak en Plassebed" in 2008. Later in 2010, David produced his second comic book- "Wat is er toch met Kobus? (What's up with Kobus?)". The book tells a story about what it's like to live with autism in a humorous manner, and covers relevant information and useful tips on how to raise autistic children. David drew all the illustrations, and his mother wrote the story.

David Barth and his family pose at his drawing wall at the 5th Annual Art Exhibition by Autistic Children held at Beijing's Inside-out Art Museum on April 2. [Photo by Zhang Junmian/] 

David has had five exhibitions in the Netherlands, with the first held in 2004. He has also won several drawing competitions. His first prize came from a competition organized by the "Russian School of Arts" in 2005. In 2007, he won the prestigious "Caldenborgh Young Talent Award" in the category "Comics". He was also invited to design the cover of an album for a famous American band.

When talking about David's future, Luuk Barth said: "It may be hard for David to go to college and find a regular job like normal people. But we don't worry so much about his future, as he can develop this skill as a way to support his life."

Inge Barth-Wagemaker said: "David is happy with drawing, and he has the talent. I believe he can develop himself into an artist, illustrator or art designer."

David Barth's website:

To learn more about David Barth's "Wat is er toch met Kobus? (What's up with Kobus?)", please visit

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