Garth Tapper was born at Frankton in the Waikato and studied at the Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland (1945 – 1951). In his final year he was invited by Director, A J Fisher to lecture in painting. In the same year he was awarded the Carnegie Scholarship from the Auckland Society of Arts. The scholarship enabled him to study in Europe between 1952 and 1953.
While studying at the Slade and Chelsea Schools of Art he made contact with Augustus John and Vivian Pitchforth.
Tapper returned to New Zealand in 1953 and commenced teaching at Auckland Secondary Schools until 1960, when he rejoined the staff of the Elam School of Fine Arts. He lectured for 17 years before retiring in 1977 to paint full time.
Garth Tapper is most known for his figurative works of New Zealanders at work and play. His works have become known for their commentary on New Zealand life. He generally paints in series; gum diggers, roadside workers, courtroom scenes and the local pub patrons have all featured throughout his career.
His work is represented in private collections throughout New Zealand as well as in many public art institutions.