John Wycliffe Lowes Forster was born in Norval, Canada in 1850. At the age of nineteen he began studying portraiture in Toronto. He travelled to England and Europe in 1875 and 1879 and studied painting while in Paris.
In 1883 he returned to Toronto and established a permanent studio. He began exhibiting locally in Toronto as well as internationally.
Forster was among the most popular academic portraitists in Toronto during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some of his subjects included Alexander Graham Bell, Laurier MacDonald, and Timothy Eaton.
He had several commissions from the Ontario government to complete portraits of historical figures, such as James Wolfe, William Lyon Mackenzie.
He is represented in the federal and Ontario parliamentary collections and numerous other public collections. His writings include two volumes of an autobiography and a survey of early Ontario artists.
He died in Toronto in 1938.