Robert Lynch was born with the name Larry O'Neal Lynch on 14 September 1947 near Enfield, in Halifax County, eastern North Carolina. He was the oldest of the five children of Izetta Hedgepeth Lynch and Randolph Lynch. After graduating from Eastman High School in Enfield, North Carolina and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he attended Harvard Law School. After practicing as an attorney in New York City, where he specialized in corporate and securities law, he became involved with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. In August of 1975, he returned to rural North Carolina, living for a time at "Redbird Cabin," a neglected cottage in the woods not far from the home in which he was a child. Lynch referred to this as his "Thoreauvian period"; there, for an especially intensive period of four years, and for the rest of his life, he wrote poetry, kept close and introspective poetic and impressionistic diaries, and researched his complex ancestries. In the 1970s, he
also travelled and hitchhiked in America and internationally, frequently visiting friends in metropolitan areas. In 1979 he moved into "Izetta House," the home in which he had grown up. By 1980 he was referring to himself as Robert Benjamin Richardson Lynch, though his family and those who had known him as Larry, continued to call him that. He also spent periods of a year or less as the Officer of Housing, Economic Development and Cultural Affairs for Princeville, North Carolina, as Development Director for WVSP Public Radio in Warrenton, North Carolina, and as a consultant to the Dance Theatre of Harlem. In the early 1980s, Lynch became involved in studying and collecting folk art, (or primitive art, or l'art brut ), which he referred to as "outsider art." As a field collector and dealer, Lynch acquired examples and assembled a large photographic representation of outsider art, and also created a video on the subject. In 1987 he became aware of
having contracted AIDS. Lynch died on 13 March 1989.