A native of Brooklyn, New York, Irma Cavat became a professional artist in her early twenties. She studied with Russian sculptor, Alexander Archipenko and modeled for French surrealist painter, Renee Magritte. She also studied at the New School for Social Research in New York. Cavat designed the windows of FAO Schwartz toy store on Fifth Avenue, illustrated science fiction books, and designed her own jewelry.
As a young artist, she worked with Willem De Kooning and became part of the Abstract Expressionist group, which included Jackson Pollack and Larry Rivers, in the early 1950s. 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 (of New York City) and Nika (of Venice, California) were born. Cavat then moved to Santa Barbara and became a Professor of Art at UCSB from 1965 to 2000. It was during this early move back to the United States that Cavat began to paint figuratively.
From the mid-80s until the time of his death in 2002, sculptor George Rickey used her California home as a winter studio. 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, Provence, Athens, and London. An avid traveler, she has also journeyed to the open markets of Morocco, Tienamen Square in China, the Taj Mahal in India, and throughout parts of Turkey, Japan, Hungary, the Baltic States, and Russia. Each country she visited offered bountiful inspiration for her paintings.
Cavat continues to reside in Santa Barbara. Her family includes grandchildren, Hunter and Aurora.
The Patti Look Lewis Gallery in Santa Barbara, California is Cavat's present dealer.