Born in Yeovil, Rice grew up in Tintinhull and Montacute. He attended Yeovil School of Art and became friends with fellow artist Derek Boshier. In the 1960s, Rice was at the heart of the London art scene, producing some of the era’s most groundbreaking paintings and prints.

In the mid-1970s, Rice left the pressures of London and retreated to his roots in the West Country, more or less giving up painting for a while. He bought a 50-acre sheep farm on the flanks of Eggardon Hill near Bridport and taught part-time at Brighton College of Art (now University of Brighton). Working the land he discovered Bronze Age archaeological remains and an 18th-century Donyatt pottery dish painted with the face of a Green Man, a symbol of rebirth. His finds inspired a new artistic direction, focused on the landscape and ancient traces of habitation, work that continued at his present home on the Dorset/Devon/Somerset borders. In more recent years his painting has revisited his early skill with colour and pure abstraction, resulting in works of great vibrancy.

In 1995 he held his first exhibition for 20 years. The solo show at The Meeting House in Ilminster was followed in 1998 by his ‘Art and Archaeology’ solo exhibition at Somerset County Museum in Taunton, where he displayed his works alongside his numerous finds from the New House restoration, including around 20,000 shards of pottery. Exhibitions in London, St Ives and Dorset ensued, including a highly successful retrospective of his 1960s work at the Redfern Gallery in Cork Street in 2014. His most recent retrospective 'The Art of Brian Rice: 60 Years of Paintings and Prints' was held at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton in 2022.