James Lippett Clark was born in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating from The Rhode Island School of Design, Clark started working for the Gorham Silver Company as a designer. Many of his earliest bronze sculptures were cast by Gorham.
In 1902 Clark was offered a job mounting animal specimens for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a position he would hold for almost fifty years. For this job, Clark was trained in the art of taxidermy under Carl Akeley in Chicago. When he was working on mounting an animal for the Museum of Natural History, he would create a clay model in order to best represent the animal in its natural state and position. Many of these clay models were later cast in bronze. Early in his career, Clark would go to zoos such as Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo to sketch animals.
By 1906 Clark wanted to observe animals in their natural settings and he traveled to Wyoming to study. In 1908 he made his first expedition to Africa, and it was on this trip that he made the first motion picture of African wildlife. This expedition was the first of many that took him to remote places around the world and this lifelong commitment to studying animals made Clark one of the finest wildlife artists in America. He retired from the Museum of Natural History in 1949 and devoted the remainder of his life to travel, writing and sculpture.