Avni Arbaş was born in Istanbul in 1919. After graduating from Galatasaray High School he attended the Academy of Fine Arts between 1940-46, where he studied under Leopold Levy (1882-1966). During this period he became one of the founders of the New Painters Group. In 1947 he was awarded a scholarship from the French government to study in Paris, where he remained for thirty years and participated in numerous exhibitions. He returned to Turkey in the late 1970s. In 1991 he was awarded the International Plastic Arts Association Certificate of Honour.
The New Painters Group was formed of artists influenced by western art who wished to introduce new movements into Turkish art, and established in reaction to the D Group of artists. This was a period when the uncertainty, political and economic problems and unrest resulting from the Second World War had begun to affect culture and art, leading to new emphasis on a national viewpoint. The New Painters Group was founded in 1940 by Nuri İyem, Avni Arbaş, Selim Turan, Nejat Devrim, Kemal Sönmezler and Turgut Atalay, who were all students of Levy, a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts, and by Abidin Dino, a former member of the D Group. Their principal objective was to release Turkish painting from the influence of new western art movements, and focus on social problems. Although the group did not sever themselves from western art in technical terms, their work began to reflect local traditions and predominantly social themes. When some of the members settled in Paris, the group's influence gradually declined from 1946 onwards.