Early life and education
Arpana Caur [a] was born in 1954, in Delhi. She comes from a Sikh family who fled the Pakistani West Punjab to the Republic of India in 1947 during the confusion over the partition of British India. Her mother Ajit Kaur (born in 1934), is a writer who writes in Panjabi. She has not had her first name Arpana since her birth, but she adopted it at the age of fifteen, as an expression of a personal development process.
Her exposure to art, music and literature happened early in her life. She learnt the Sitar, wrote poetry, but enjoyed painting the most. At the age of nine, she made her first oil painting, 'Mother & Daughter' inspired by the works of Amrita Shergil. Arpana graduated from the University of Delhi with a Master of Arts degree in Literature. She never received formal training in painting, and was largely self taught. She proceeded to receive training in the etching technique at the Garhi Studios in New Delhi, completing it in 1982.
In an interview with Yashodhara Dalmia, when asked if she called herself a 'feminist', Caur immediately replied with a resounding 'no' because the themes she incorporates or is curious about, go beyond gender and ones that every human is faced with.
Influences and style
Arpana Caur's paintings were shaped by the events and situations around her. Her works very much focus on social issues that highlight the victimized. In addition, there is a clear influence of existing traditions in her works, namely drawing from the Gond, Gondna, Madhubani, miniature and folk art forms. Her mother's strong influence on her extended into her works; where the 'woman' often occupies a central focus. Her works are also inspired by Pahari miniatures (hill-paintings), Punjabi literature, and Indian folk art.
One will notice that Caur's works encompass paintings with watercolour, gauche and sculptures that are layered with motifs, myths and stories that the artist purposefully references. It is important to point out that she used the 'scissors' motif so often that it earned her the pet name kainchi.
'Spirituality' , and 'Time' are recurring themes in her works. In conduction with that, she is also intrigued by the themes of 'Life' and 'Death'. Nature and figures play a vital role in the stories she tells through her works.
In the 1990s, Caur created a series of collaborations with Indian folk artists from the indigenous ethnic groups of Warli and Godna, who lived in the Madhubani region of the Indian state of Bihar. She is one of the first contemporary artists to have collaborated with folk artisans.
In 1994, she was commissioned to do a large work 'Tears from Hiroshima' by the Hiroshima Museum of Modern Art to create a mural to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombings.This work was also shown at the Documenta at Kassel. Interestingly, the artist was afraid of the temporary aspect of this installation and decided to add in pots brimming with water signifying tears within the context of the man-made tragedy.
|2009||Mural on Tiles for outer wall of SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu|
|2007||Indigo Blue Gallery, Singapore|
|2005||Mahua Gallery, Bangalore|
|2004||Galerie Mueller & Plate, Munich|
|2003||Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, New Delhi|
|October Gallery, London|
|2002||Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai|
|2001||Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, New Delhi|
|1999||CIMA Gallery, Kolkata|
|1998||Fine Art Resources, Berlin|
|Foundation for Indian Artists Galerie, Amsterdam|
|Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai|
|1997||Arks Gallery, London|
|1996||Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai and Bangalore|
|1994||Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai|
|1993||Rabindra Bhawan Gallery, New Delhi|
|1991||Collins Gallery, Glasgow|
|1988||Art Heritage New Delhi|
|1987||October Gallery, London|
|1985||Art Heritage, New Delhi|
|Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai|
|1984||Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm|
|National Museum, Copenhagen|
|Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai|
|1982||Chapter Gallery, Cardiff|
|Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai|
|October Gallery, London |
|1981||City hall Gallery, Ottawa|
|1980||Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai|
|1979||Rabindra Bhawan Gallery, New Delhi|
|Gallery Arts 38, London|
|1975||Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi|
1992 Crossing Black Waters
1988 Graven Images
1988 Numaish Lait Kala
1984 First Indo- Greek Cultural Symposium and group shows, Athens and Delphi
1981 Executed two large murals for India International Trade Fair, New Delhi
Reviews, articles texts
Eddie Chambers, 'Inside Out: Contemporary Women Artists of India', Art Monthly no193, (February1996) 35-37.Besides this, her work has been covered extensively in newspapers, magazines, art books and International Herald Tribune, Arts Review London, Citizen Ottawa, Die Welt and Dagens Nhyter Stockholm.
Caur has also been cinematically covered with numerous films and biopics by BBC London, Sidharth Tagore, Chandermani, Doordarshan and Raqs Media.
Awards and honours
2011 Rotary Club of Delhi: The Lifetime Achievement Award for Vocational Excellence
2010 Sikh Art and Film Foundation, New York: The Lifetime Achievement Award
2009 Chief Guest for Conferring B.F.A. degrees, Delhi College of Art Convocation
2007 T.K. Padamini Award, Kerala Govt.
2001 Advisory Committee Member: National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi, Lalit Kala Academy, and Sahitya Kala Parishad
1995-98 Selection Committee member, Republic Day Pageants for Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India
1995 Commissioned by Hiroshima Museum to excite a large work for its permanent collection on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Holocaust
1991-92 Purchase Committee Member, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
1990-2000 Collaborated with Gonna artist Sat Narain Pandey and for the first time in India, co-signed works with him
1990-02 Jury Member, Republic Day Pageants New Delhi Nominated Eminent Artist by Lalit Kala Academy
1989 Jury Member, National Exhibition, New Delhi
1987 VI Triennele Gold Medal for Painting (International exhibition)
1986 Gold Medal at 6th India Triennale (awarded by the Lalit Kala Akademi)
Commendation Certificate in Algiers Biennale
1985 All India Fine Arts Society Award 
1984 Research Grant from Lalit Kala Academy for painting in Garhi Studio, New Delhi
Caur's paintings have been collected extensively in collections, both public and private, which include:
- Victoria and Albert Museum London
- Rockefeller Collection, New York
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
- Singapore Museum of Modern Art, Singapore
- National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai
- Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh
- Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm
- Kunst Museum, Düsseldorf
- Bradford Museum, Bradford, U.K
- Glenbarra Museum, Japan
- Deutsche Bank, Mumbai and Chandigarh
- Kapany Collection, San Francisco
- Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
- Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai 
- Birla Akademi Collection, Calcutta
- Peabody Essex Museum, Boston
- Reubens Museum, New York
- Venkatappa Museum (Roerich & Hebbar), Bangalore
- Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal
- Bengal Foundation, Dhaka
- J.K Kejriwal Museum Collection, Bangalore Dhaka Museum
Arpana Caur has been leading the Academy of Fine Arts & Literature which hosts the South Asian Literature Festival; strengthening bonds between authors from the subcontinent.
She is known to have successfully rallied against the felling of trees in New Delhi's Siri forest area during the construction of food courts / restaurants for the 2010 Commonwealth Games Village.
She supports a leprosy home in Ghaziabad, setup in the memory of her younger sister. The home also offers vocational training for young girls.
- Kaur or Caur (pronunciation kor) is a religious surname worn by all female Sikhs.
- "India Art Festival is now bigger and better". Millennium Post. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
- KG Saur. Volume 17. Munich: General Artist's Encyclopedia. 1997. p. 342.
|volume=has extra text (help)
- Dalmia, Yashodhara (2011). Arpana Caur- Abstract Figuration (Conversations). New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. p. 15. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- Dalmia, Yashodhara (2011). Arpana Caur Abstract Figuration. New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. p. 8. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- Mehrotra, Rajiv (2011). The Spirit of the Muse: Conversations on the Journeys of Artists. Hay House, Inc. ISBN 9789381398173.
- Arpana Caur- Abstract Figuration. New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. 2011. p. 82. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- Jhaveri, Amrita (2005). A Guide to 101 Modern & Contemporary Indian Artists. Mumbai: India Book House. p. 101. ISBN 81-7508-423-5.
- Dalmia, Yashodhara (2011). Arpana Caur- Abstracting Figuration. New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. p. 11. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- Arpana Caur- Abstract Figuration. New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. 2011. p. 213. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- Keen, Melanie. (1996). Recordings : a select bibliography of contemporary African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian British art. Ward, Elizabeth., Chelsea College of Art and Design., Institute of International Visual Arts. London: Institute of International Visual Arts and Chelsea College of Art and Design. ISBN 1899846069. OCLC 36076932.
- Arpana Caur- Abstract Figuration. Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. 2011. p. 214. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- Arpana Caur- Abstract Figuration. New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. 2011. p. 215. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- "Threads of Life: Arpana Caur's journey of becoming an artist living through violence". The Indian Express. 13 November 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- Arpana Caur- Abstract Figuration. New Delhi: Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. 2011. p. 216. ISBN 81-88703-15-X.
- "Arpana Caur - JNAF". Retrieved 20 April 2021.
- "Ties That Bind". The Indian Express. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- Chowdhury, Kavita (23 October 2015). "Lunch with BS: Arpana Caur". Business Standard India. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- Madhukar, Jayanthi (12 November 2016). "Artist Arpana Caur talks about her canvasses and what inspired them". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 30 March 2019.