Robert Hagan was born in 1947 in New South Wales. After moving south to study economics at Newcastle University, he studied education for his postgraduate degree, which led him into his first profession as a teacher.

Despite the lack of any formal training, Hagan decided that he wanted to become an artist, specifically to paint the people and places of his country. For the next three years he set out on a personal discovery tour of Australia, and taught himself to be a painter with a style that was "mine and mine alone – right or wrong".,

Since his first unheralded one-man exhibition of Australian bush scenes held in 1980, Hagan's popularity has increased year by year, and since 1985 all of his exhibitions, including those in Sydney and Perth, have been sell-outs.

Although Hagan paints varied subjects, landscapes, seascapes, western, portraits and figurative he insists that his paintings here and there go beyond obvious recognizable subject. He says "make a painting like the recognizable subject rather than executing a literal representation. It's better to paint the effect of what is there...what is left in the back of the head! That's impressionism, and that I hope is where I am"