Born in Hamburg, Germany, Lindner enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1925. An art director with the Nazi-associated publisher Knorr and Hirth, Lindner fled Germany the day after the Nazis came to power.
Briefly imprisoned in Paris, he escaped, serving in the French and British armies. He arrived in New York City in 1941, and worked as a magazine illustrator for Vogue, Fortune and Harper's Bazaar. It was in 1952 that Lindner decided to devote time to his painting.
His work has been described by art critics as "mechanistic cubism." Infused with personal imagination, his style has overtones of the "Cabaret-Berlin" culture of the 30's, with flat areas of often garish colors, separated by highly defined edges. His subjects, too, seem to come from that era. His women, archetypal in this respect, are often corseted, erotically drawn in a garish and generic, rather than individuated way. Streetwalkers, continental circus women, and men in uniforms populate the Lindner landscape.
Richard Lindner taught at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1952 to 1965. He died in 1978.