Barbara Janice Hanrahan was born in Adelaide, South Australia, 6 September 1939. She lost her father to tuberculosis when she was one and was brought up a lone child by her mother, a commercial artist. They lived with her grandmother and great-aunt in her grandmotherʼs house in Thebarton. In 1955 she moved to Oaklands Park with her mother and new stepfather. She studied at the South Australian School of Art from 1957-1962. She began printmaking in 1960 and until 1963 worked part-time with Udo Sellbach and Karen Schepers. From 1963- 1964 she continued her studies at the Central School of Art in London, gaining a Diploma in Etching with distinction. She continued there for another year gaining post-diploma skills in etching, lithography, wood engraving and silkscreening. From 1961-1962 Hanrahan taught at Western Teachers' College and the South Australian School of Art during 1964-1965, then at Falmouth College of Art from 1967-1970. The year 1973 saw the publication of her book, ʻThe Scent of Eucalyptusʼ a memoir of childhood, followed in 1974 by ʻSea Greenʼ, a novel.
Hanrahan says of her own etchings, 'the two parts: the image on the plate and the printing of it on to paper are quite different processes. They donʼt go together; theyʼre as different as clean and dirty hands' (Kempf: 1976). Hanrahanʼs work 'presents a strange unique blend of the decorative ornateness of the wood-engraver illustrator, and the defiant explicit sexuality informed by feminism and a commentary on pop culture' (Grishin: 1994). Hanrahan was a prolific artist, producing more than 400 prints over the years, as well as a number of paintings, and her work was exhibited in Australia, London and France. She held more than 30 one-woman exhibitions. She was writer in residence at the University of Adelaide for a period in 1987, and later the same year, at Rollins College, Florida (USA). [Grishin, Sasha (1994) ʻContemporary Australian Printmakingʼ Craftsman House, NSW. Kempf, Franz (1976) 'Contemporary Australian Printmakers' Landsdowe Editions, Melbourne.]