Rolf was born in Perth, Western Australia, and always loved art; At the age of twenty-two, Rolf moved to London on what was supposed to be a year's study leave, financing himself through four exhibitions of his work held in Australia. He immediately enrolled at the City & Guilds Art School in London, intending to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and become a portrait painter. After a chance meeting with the Australian impressionist painter 'Bill' Hayward Veal, however, he began attending an art course run by Veal and soon became his protégé.
In the mid 1950's, for two years running, some of Rolf's paintings were featured in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. While painting continued to be a private passion of his, it was for his television and stage performances that Rolf became a household name. In recent years Rolf has devoted more time to painting and has had a number of one-man shows, including the Rolf on Art exhibition at the National Gallery.
Rolf's BBC television series Rolf on Art achieved the highest television ratings ever for a UK arts programme. Rolf hosted television's biggest ever Arts event with a live BBC special titled Rolf on Art: The Big Event, in which he joined the public in recreating a large-scale version of Constable's 'Haywain' in Trafalgar Square.
Rolf has been awarded the OBE, is a member of the Order of Australia and has won many awards for his work in the entertainment industry. Recently he was made an honorary member of the Royal Society of British Artist.