About The John Ruskin prize


Organised by The Big Draw, charity no. 1114811

The John Ruskin Prize is the fastest growing multi-disciplinary art prize in the UK.

The John Ruskin Prize was inaugurated in 2012 by The Guild of St. George and The Big Draw (formerly The Campaign for Drawing). Organised and delivered by The Big Draw, The Prize aims to uphold John Ruskin’s beliefs: An impassioned critic, not only of art but of society and life. He believed that art has the power to expose universal truths, and that a good artist should do just that. Ruskin was a writer, artist, social critic, polymath and aesthete.

The prize also embraces Ruskin’s polymathic sensibilities, and in 2017 expanded the remit of the prize welcoming entries from artists, designers and makers focusing on the strengths of interdisciplinary practice through the 2017 theme: Hand & Eye: Master of All Trades.

‘The greatest thing a human being ever does in this world is to see something… To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one’. - John Ruskin


Previous prizes

The John Ruskin Prize 2017, Hand & Eye: Master of All Trades in The Age of Jack, celebrated artist as polymath. The critically acclaimed shortlist exhibition was held at The Millennium Gallery, Sheffield from June - October 2017 and showcased an eclectic range of work of the 26 prize finalists, selected from over 1000 entries. 3 winners were awarded a total of £5000 in prizes and the exhibition attracted over 44,000 visitors. READ MORE. The selected artworks defied easy categorisation, dissolved boundaries and had a joyous disregard for the conventions of their chosen materials and disciplines. Several works addressed the parallel between artist and scientist, combined traditional craft with social commentary, displayed skilful material manipulation and a keen visual wit.

Since The John Ruskin Prize launched in 2012, we have held 4 national prizes, considered entries from over 3000 artists and makers, awarded £15000 in prizes to 8 winning artists, promoted and displayed the work of 102 shortlisted artists and designers at high profile national museums and galleries attracting an audience of over 115,000 visitors to John Ruskin Prize shortlist exhibitions and events. Now approaching its 5th year, coinciding with the bicentenary of John Ruskin’s birth in 2019, the prize continues to grow in reach, reputation and support for artists whose work defies easy categorisation.


John Ruskin (1819-1900) was a polymath. As a writer, he commanded international respect. He was an art critic and an art patron, a skilled draughtsman and talented watercolourist, and a fierce critic of prevailing social and political norms. He wrote about nature and architecture, craftsmanship, geology, botany, Greek myth, education. Driven by his deep faith in social justice, he established the Guild of St. George in the 1870s to right some of the social wrongs of the day and make England a happier and more beautiful place in which to live and work. (The Guild of St George, 2016).

“Without mingling of heart-passion with hand-power, no art is possible. The highest art unites both in their intensest degrees: the action of the hand at its finest, with that of the heart at its fullest.” John Ruskin

"Victorian artist, critic, writer and social reformer John Ruskin had a saying: ‘the greatest thing a human being ever does in this world is to see something… To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one’. The  John Ruskin Prize asks exactly this of its entrants; to see and to absorb a theme". 

Daniel Dylan Wray on ‘Recording Britain Now: The 2nd John Ruskin Prize, Creative Tourist, 11 August 2014