Richard Muller's precocious draftsmanship earned him early admission at 16 years old, to the Dresden Academy. In 1895, his career as a painter already well-established, he sought out Max Kinger, an artist then at the height of his fame as Germany's pre-eminent Symbolist, who taught Muller the techniques of etching. For the most part Muller avoided overtly social themes, that aspect of Klinger's oeuvre pursued by his other major disciple, Kathe Kollwitz. Rather, Muller was to emphasize symbol and metaphor in his fantastic images, ranging from macabre to the engagingly whimsical. His nudes are courted by grotesque animals and birds, while his bear-artist performs for a monkey- public.
Though awarded the Prix de Rome in 1897, Muller was to abandon etching in 1924 in favor of grimly realistic drawings and paintings. He was a prominent professor of 35 years at the Dresden Academy, where his students included Otto Dix and George Grosz.