Stanislaus Ivan Rapotec was born in Trieste, Italy, on 4 October 1913. During the 1930s he travelled and painted throughout central Europe and Turkey. He studied economics at the University of Zagreb (1933–39), where he also attended classes in art history. In World War II he fought in Europe and the Middle East with the Yugoslav army. He immigrated to South Australia in 1949, moving to Sydney in 1955.
Rapotec had no formal art training. His work was first shown in a group exhibition, Annual contemporary art society show, in Adelaide and Sydney, in 1950, and his first solo exhibition was at the John Martin Gallery, Adelaide, in 1952. Between 1952 and 1984 Rapotec had 24 solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, in 1975. Rapotec was also included in many group exhibitions, including Australian paintings of the past 20 years in London, 1972, Images of religion in Australian art at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in 1988, and Federation: Australian art & society 1901–2001, a National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition, 2001.
Rapotec was awarded the Blake Prize in 1961 and, on 26 January 1989, he became a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the arts. He suffered a stroke in 1995 from which he never fully recovered. Rapotec died in Sydney on 9 December 1997. His works are represented in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection, in the Vatican Gallery of Modern Religious Art, in most state galleries in Australia, numerous regional gallery collections, and many private art collections both internationally and in Australia.