Robert Buhler was born in London to Swiss parents. He attended Westbourne Park grammar school and was educated in Switzerland before enrolling in the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich, where he studied commercial art, followed by the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel. He returned to London in 1933 and briefly attended the Bolt Court School of Photo-Engraving and Lithography before studying painting in St Martins School of Art. In 1935 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art but only stayed for six weeks, leaving to take up a teaching post at the Wimbledon School of Art.
In 1937 Buhler exhibited at the British Artists’ Congress, and the following year his portrait of Stephen Spender was purchased by the Contemporary Art Society. In the 1940s he shared exhibitions with Vivian Pitchforth at the Leger Galleries, and with Lawrence Gowing at the Leicester Galleries. He also taught at both the Central School of Arts and Crafts and the Chelsea School of Art and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1945, becoming an associate in 1947 and a Royal Academician in 1956. He exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists and the New English Art Club, of which he became a member in 1946. In 1948 he joined the London Group and he began teaching at the Royal College of Art.
Buhler stopped teaching in 1975 and started travelling around Europe and the United States. He won the Wollaston award from the Royal Academy in 1982 and the Hunting Group prize in 1984. He died five years later at his home in London. His work is now represented in a number of national collections around the world.