Jean- Louis Forain was born in Reims, and moved to Paris during his childhood where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme.
At Degas’ invitation, Forain participated in four Impressionist exhibitions between 1879 and 1886. Influenced by Impressionist theories on light and colour, Forain’s work depicts scenes of modern Parisian nightlife, entertainment, racetracks, and cafes.
Later in life, Forain began addressing more political subjects and published numerous drawings and illustrations in major periodicals.
Together with Caran d’Ache, he published for the magazine Psst…! – which represented the anti-Dreyfus campaign – a stream of anti-semitic cartoons and caricatures.
During the first World War, Forain’s illustrations honoured the patriotism of his contemporaries; and he served in the Camouflage Section under Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola.
In his later years, Forain created numerous scenes of the Law Courts and other Parisian institutions plus social satirical drawings on late 19th and early 20th-century French life.