Born in Lyallpur (now Faislabad, Pakistan), in pre partition India in 1925, Krishen Khanna moved to Shimla during the partition. After arriving in India he took up a post with the Grindlays Bank and was placed in Mumbai. Once there Khanna was invited to join the Progressive Artists' Group with whom he remained in active association for the rest of his time.
Khanna was awarded the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1962 and was Artist in Residence at the ameiican University in Washington in 1963-64. Apart from several one man shows he has participated in group shows like the Tokyo Biennale 1957 and 1961, the Sao Paulo Biennale 1960, the Venice Biennale 1962, the Festival of India in the then USSR and in Japan in 1987 and 1988. Khanna has held several important positions in decision-making bodies of the Lalit Kala Akademi, National Gallery of Modem Art and Roopanker Museum, Bhopal. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1996. Khanna lives and works in New Delhi.