Son of the Yiddish poet Melech Ravitch and singer Fania Bergner, Yosl Bergner was born in 1920 in Vienna, but spent his childhood years in Warsaw, where he received private lessons in painting. At the age of 17 his family immigrated to Australia, where he attended the National Gallery of Art School in Melbourne and served in the Australian army in World War II.
In 1948 he leaves Australia for Paris, and his work begins to receive worldwide attention. In the early 1950s he immigrated to Israel with his wife and the couple settled in the Kabbalist town of Safed for a few years, and then moved to Tel Aviv.
Bergner, although very much appreciated as an artist, always remained an outsider. Uninfluenced by the many artistic movements and trends that swept the art world in his time, Bergner’s work remained faithful to his childhood world, to the Yiddish culture in which he grew up, the literature, theatre and fantastic folklore of Eastern Europe.