A native of Brooklyn, Irma Cavat became a professional artist in her early 20s. She studied with Russian sculptor, Alexander Archipenko and at the New School for Social Research in New York, and modeled for French surrealist painter, Renee Magritte.
Cavat designed the windows of FAO Schwartz toy store, illustrated science fiction books, and designed her own jewelry. As a young artist in the early 1950s, she worked with Willem De Kooning and became part of the Abstract Expressionist group, which included Jackson Pollack and Larry Rivers.
Her awards include residencies at Yaddo in New York, the McDowell Colony in Maine, the Djerassi Foundation in Northern California, and a Fulbright Grant to Rome, Italy. She resided in Rome from 1955 to 1964, where her daughters, Karina and Nika, were born.
Cavat was Professor of Art at UCSB from 1965 to 2000. The house in Santa Barbara – an over century-old converted barn – became the locus for visiting artists, writers, filmmakers, and academics from around the globe. It also offered on-going inspiration for Cavat’s subject as she grew pomegranates, avocados, and a bountiful flower garden.
In 1995, in collaboration with landscape architect, Isabelle Greene and Walter Kohn, a Nobel laureate in theoretical physics, Cavat helped create the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Sadako Peace Garden on the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima tragedy. She has lived for extended periods of time in Paris and Provence, Athens, and London. An avid traveler, she has also journeyed to the open markets of Morocco, Tenamen Square, the Taj Mahal, and throughout parts of Turkey, Japan, Hungary, the Baltic States, and Russia.
Irma Cavat continues to reside in Santa Barbara. Her family includes grandchildren, Hunter and Aurora.