Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian immigrant parents, Bernard Childs grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1930, after two years at the University of Pennsylvania, he went to New York to pursue his art career. Studying by night at the Art Students League with Kimon Nicolaides, Childs met the Danish silversmith Per Smed. Childs remarked: "From this great craftsman I learned the beauty of metals, the feel of them in my hands, the excitement of fashioning them and the use of the special tools that bring them to life."
Childs later mastered industrial tools and metalworking while employed as a machinist in a factory converted to wartime production. In 1947 he began his studies in New York with Amédée Ozenfant. Childs moved to Europe in 1951, living primarily in Paris for the next fifteen years. In 1954, Childs combined his interest in metal and knowledge of painting to make experimental intaglio prints, using power tools to incise the plates. He referred to these prints as "power drypoints." Childs moved to New York in 1966 but returned frequently to France. His paintings and prints have been exhibited widely and are included in numerous public collections.