Richard Lindner was born in Hamburg, Germany. His mother Mina Lindner was American and born in New York as daughter of German parents.
In 1905 the family moved to Nuremberg, where Lindner's mother was owner of a custom-fitting corset business and Richard Lindner grew up and studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts and Crafts School since 1940 Academy of Fine Arts). From 1924 to 1927 he lived in Munich and studied there from 1925 at the Kunstakademie.
In 1941, Lindner moved to the United States and worked in New York City as an illustrator of books and magazines. There he made contact with New York artists and German emigrants such as Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich, and Saul Steinberg. In 1948, Lindner became an American citizen.