Born on the Isle of Wight, Russell migrated to New Brunswick in 1852 where he made sketches for the Illustrated London News. In 1870 he began specializing in marines and ship portraiture, creating several travel booklets for the International Steamship Co. And the Providence and Baltimore steamship lines.
In 1895 he moved to Boston where he worked as an illustrator and ship's portraitist in watercolor. He also became well known as a political cartoonist. In his later years he specialized in creating watercolors of historic naval battles of fine quality. Of the six examples in the Peabody Museum, all are dated in the early 20th century.