The son of a painter of Danish descent, Sir George Clausen was born in London. He studied at the South Kensington School of Art from 1873 – 75 and then visited Belgium and Holland between 1875-76. Influenced initially by Dutch painting and Whistler during the 1870s, he transferred his allegiance to Jules Bastien-Lepage and the French plein-air school of painting in the early 1880s. Closely identifying with English rural life, he favoured naturalism during this period as a technique of what he called ‘studied impartiality’ with its emphasis on literal representation rather than narrative content. For a few months in 1883, he studied at the Academie Julian under Adolphe William Bouguereau.
During the 1890s, Clausen became increasingly aware of the limitation of rustic naturalism. Influenced by the French Impressionists, he developed a more fluent style, showing a renewed interest in figural expression and movement, and a preoccupation with the play of sunlight and shade.
Following his marriage in 1881, he settled first in Berkshire and then in Essex where the surrounding scenery inspired much of his work. From 1876-1943, he exhibited regularly at the royal Academy; he was a founder member of the New English Art Club in 1886 although he ceased to exhibit there following his election as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1895 and a Royal Academician in 1908.