Rudolf Gopas was born in East Prussia and studied at Kaunas in Lithuania, serving in the German army during the Second World War. He immigrated to New Zealand in 1949 and settled in Christchurch in 1953. In 1959 he was appointed tutor in painting at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts (Ilam).
Gopas is recognised as an influential teacher and artist, introducing students to German Expressionism (including Philip Clairmont and Philippa Blair), and an experience of art that emphasised the intuitive over the academic. Gopas exhibited a series of painterly, coastal landscapes of Kaikoura in the late 1950s and 60s while his later paintings and drawings encompassed evocative images of the universe and astronomy that similarly revealed the subjective experience of the artist’s world.
Gopas’ work is held in the collections of the Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery and the Hocken Library.