Born into a Māori-Catholic family, Hone Papita Raukura (Ralph) Hotere spent his childhood in Mitimiti, Te Tai Tokerau/Northland.
During the early 1960s, he studied and exhibited in England and Europe. He returned to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1965 with an appreciation of international art movements, and developed a formal reductivism and minimalist approach to his own painting. His works are outspoken against racism, human rights injustices and environmental concerns.
Through the 1970s, the words of poets became a characteristic of his work. He undertook a number of creative partnerships with the likes of Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire and Bill Culbert.
A leading figure in late 20th-century New Zealand art, Hotere was awarded the Arts Foundation Icon Award in 2003 and the Te Taumata Award from Te Waka Toi in 2007. He became a Member of the Order of New Zealand the year before his death in 2013.