As Oxford’s first Slade Professor, Ruskin intended to develop a course for the University leading to a degree in art. Armed with a teaching collection of more than 800 watercolours and drawings and more than 400 prints, including works by Dürer, Tintoretto and Turner, the school was originally housed in the University Galleries. The school continued its work in what became the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, moving to its current High Street site in 1975, where it was called the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. Degrees in Fine Art (BFA) were first awarded by the University of Oxford in 1981.
In October 2015, the Ruskin opened a second Fine Art building - to augment its High Street premises - in Bullingdon Road, East Oxford. Designed by Spratley Studios Architects, the building houses purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities and studios, and won an RIBA South Award 2016.
The Ruskin enjoys a special relationship with Oxford’s Department of the History of Art, which welcomed its first BA students in 2004, and with many other parts of the University, including the School of Anatomy, the Department of Engineering Science, the Institute of Archaeology and numerous museums. The rapport with Modern Art Oxford is also extremely positive and Ruskin students have staged their own exhibitions and been involved in a number of projects with MAO.
The Ruskin Mastership has been vacant since 2010 but ambitious plans are in hand for a new Ruskin Professorship of Art that is tailored to the demands of the twenty-first century and a rapidly-changing contemporary art world.
The creation of the role of Head of School as the functional equivalent of the Faculty Board Chair in other Oxford faculties has ensured continuity in the governance of the School. This role has been held by Professor Jason Gaiger (2010-14), Professor Hanneke Grootenboer (2014-16), Professor Brian Catling (2016-17), and Professor Anthony Gardner (2017 ongoing).