Leaving school at fourteen, Rutherford continued his artistic training attending evening classes at the Manchester School of Art, where he was taught by Adolphe Valette. Fellow pupils included L.S. Lowry and James Fitton. In 1925 when Walter Sickert opened an art class for students, Rutherford was one of his pupils.. The influence of Sickert is evident throughout the work of Harry Rutherford, particularly in a shared love of the theatre.


Early on in his career, Rutherford spent time in Cornwall with the Newlyn Schools of painters and light and colour infused his work from this time. Alongside his painting, Rutherford was employed as an illustrator for the print media, as he had a quick eye for sketching caricatures and cartoons.


In 1936, during the early days of television, Rutherford was invited to participate in a programme called 'Cabaret Cartoons' during which he would stand in the wings of the studio and draw the variety acts as they performed. These quick sketches would be shown live on television. Rutherford was a pioneer of graphic illustration on television and in the 1950s appeared on a regular 15 minute programme called 'Sketchbook'.


Rutherford continued to travel widely, spending time in Borneo in 1957, France and Spain. However he is most loved for his paintings of the industrial landscape and life around his home town of Hyde. These include his painting 'Northern Saturday' 1948, now held in Ashton Town Hall and 'Mill Girls' 1948.