Russell Clark showed talent as an artist from his early years, and after high school attended the Canterbury College School of Art from 1922-1928. During this time he began to exhibit his work seriously in Otago, Wellington and Auckland.
Clark worked through the ‘30s as a commercial artist and illustrator, an also ran a life drawing class in Dunedin in the early 1930s—a rarity in depression-era New Zealand. Clark’s studio was amongst the pillars of Dunedin’s art scene in the pre-war years, and his students included a young Doris Lusk and Colin McCahon.
Clark was employed by the New Zealand Listener as an illustrator from 1938-62, and as an official war artist during World War Two. After the war, as well as working for the Listener, Clark was employed to produce illustrations for the Primary School Bulletin, an educational resource documenting New Zealand topics for the social studies curriculum.
In 1947, Clark returned to Christchurch after accepting a teaching position at the Canterbury University College School of Art. By the late 1950s, Clark’s practice had become predominantly sculptural, under the influence of British modernists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Clark was notable for his commitment to the idea of making modernism visible in the public sphere in New Zealand; his sculpture Anchor Stones (1958-59) can still be seen on Wellesley Street in downtown Auckland.