Josef Bachler grew up first in an orphanage ; apparently his mother died following a difficult birth. He was then placed in several foster families who forced him to do agricultural work. Bachler refused to obey their orders, had to return to the orphanage and became an apprentice roofer, a job he would exercize for a few years. When the Nazis seized Austria in 1938, he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp. After the war, he resumed his job and married. Soon marital problems related to alcohol gradually destroyed the couple. Bachler became violent and dangerous to himself and his surroundings and was placed in the psychiatric hospital of Gugging, where he would spend the last nine years of his life.
There he benefited from the protection of Prof. Navratil and drew, in pencil on small formats, using only rarely colour pencils.