Krishen Khanna was born in Lyallapur, in pre-partition Punjab, moved to Delhi in 1948. Largely a self–taught, he started painting while he was working as a banker, between 1948-1962. A job transfer to Bombay brought him in close proximity with the members of the Progressive Artists Group and the prevalent art movement in Bombay.
He received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Council, New York (1962-63). He was an Artist-in-Residence at the American University, Washington D.C. (1962-63), during which period he exhibited at the Jacksonville, Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans; Hunter Gallery of Art, Chattanooga, East West Centre, Honolulu. His works were also exhibited at the Biennales of Tokyo (1957) and Sao Paulo (1960), the International Triennial, New Delhi (1968, 1975 and 1982), Lincoln Centre, New York (1966), India Myth and Reality-Aspects of Modern Indian Art, Oxford, Festival of India, Royal Academy of Art, London, Modern Indian Painting, Hirschhorn Museum Washington D.C. (1982), Coups de Coeur, Geneva (1987), Festival of India, Japan (1988) and Ashta Nayak, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai (2001), Old Masters-Young Voices, South Asian Masters, Alhamra, Lahore (2004).
Krishen Khanna A Critical Biography by Gayatri Sinha was published (2001) and Sketchbook published (2003) is a faithfully re-produced traveling artist sketchbook with over 140 drawings.
He is a recipient of the Padma Shri by the Government of India (1990) and the Kala Ratna by the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (1997).
Krishen Khanna lives and works in New Delhi.