Painter Richard Carline was born in Oxford in 1896, into a family of artists. In 1913, Carline and his artist brother, Sydney, attended Percyval Tudor-Hart's art schools in Paris and Hampstead. During the First World War, Carline enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and, along with Sydney, became an Official War Artist, specialising in aerial landscape paintings.
After the war, Carline moved back to his family home at 47 Downshire Hill in Hampstead, and began sharing a studio at 14a Downshire Hill with his siblings. In 1921, he enrolled at the Slade School of Art. During the 1920s, Downshire Hill became a meeting place for Carline's artistic circle, which including Stanley Spencer and his brother Gilbert, Mark Gertler, C. R. W. Nevinson and Henry Lamb.
In 1934, Carline met fellow painter Nancy (née Higgins), who had also studied at the Slade School. They married in 1950 and had two children together.