Remembered for Looking at Pictures (1960), Animals and Men (1977), and other popular books on the topics of art history and aesthetics, Clark is also notable as the producer, writer, and host of an internationally acclaimed BBC documentary series titled Civilisation.
After studying at Trinity College, Oxford, he became a curator at the Ashmolean Museum. In 1933, he was hired as the National Gallery's youngest-ever director.
He published a 1977 autobiography titled The Other Half.
Born to Scottish parents Margaret and Kenneth Clark, he spent his childhood in London, England. His marriage to Irishwoman Elizabeth Jane Martin resulted in children named Colin, Colette, and Alan.
He was influenced by the work of Victorian era art critic John Ruskin.