About The John Ruskin prize

Previous prizes

"...the show is not so much an open call to artists but a call to arms" - Afterview on The John Ruskin Prize 2019: Agent of Change

Co-inciding with the bicentenary of Ruskin’s birth in 2019 the 5th John Ruskin Prize focused on the role and increasing relevance of Ruskin the impassioned social reformer, and significantly Ruskin as not just a great thinker, but a doer. The nationwide call for entries opened on Ruskin’s birthday (8th February), calling artists to respond to the theme: ‘Agent of Change’. A record number of artists, makers and designers responded, the panel considered over 3000 artworks from 1260 artists, finally shortlisting 41 artists for the well received exhibition hosted at The Holden Gallery, Manchester from 11 July - 24 August 2019. The 4th Prize, The John Ruskin Prize 2017, Hand & Eye: Master of All Trades, 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, with our partners, The Big Draw has organised 5 national prizes, considered entries from over 4000 artists and makers, awarded £20000 in prizes to 11 winning artists, promoted and displayed the work of 143 shortlisted artists and designers at high profile national museums and galleries attracting a total audience of over 120,000 visitors to John Ruskin Prize shortlist exhibitions and events. The prize continues to grow in reach, reputation and support for artists whose work defies easy categorisation.


Organised by The Big Draw, charity no. 1114811

The John Ruskin Prize is the fastest growing multi-disciplinary art prize in the UK. With the values of the radical polymath John Ruskin at it's core, the #RuskinPrize has a growing reputation for supporting and promoting artists, designers and makers whose work defies easy categorisation.

The John Ruskin Prize was inaugurated in 2012 by The Guild of St. George and visual literacy charity 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



John Ruskin (1819-1900) was a writer, artist and philanthropist. He championed many of the tenets of the welfare state, and inspired the founders of the National Health Service, the formation of Public Libraries, the National Trust and many other cornerstones of civil society in the last one hundred years. His influence reached abroad in such areas as women’s education, the minimum wage, child labour, and environmental protection and has served both as a restraining influence on unbridled capitalism and a moral conscience for the nations of the world.

He wrote on many things: art and architecture, nature and craftsmanship, literature and religion, political economy and social justice —a dizzying variety of subjects. He also worked tirelessly for a better society; the depth and range of his thinking, his often fierce critique of industrial society and its impact on both people and their environment, and his passionate advocacy of a sustainable relationship between people, craft and nature, remain as pertinent today as they were in his own lifetime.