John Colin Forbes was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1846. He studied at the South Kensington Art School and the Royal Academy in London.
He lived in New York and worked as a portrait painter for several years. He painted Gladstone, Campbell-Bannerman, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, the last two of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1906.
His work was done in oil paint, his subject matter often landscapes and portraits.
He is a member of The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
He died in Toronto, Ontario in 1925.