The French painter, sketcher, caricaturist and graphic artist Jean-Louis Forain was born in Rheims on October 23, 1852. His real name was Louis Henri. In 1863, Forain moved to Paris with his family. In the Louvre, he copied old masters. He made acquaintance with the Parisian history painter Louis Jacquesson de la Chevreuse (1839 1903), who gave him his first lessons in drawing.
Thereafter he completed a brief course of study at the École des Beaux Arts in Jean-Léon Gérômes (1824 1904) studio. However, the artist was dissatisfied with the academic method at the École. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827 75) hired Jean-Louis Forain as his assistant. After he was let go, he lived completely without means.
In the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71), Jean-Louis Forain took part in the defense of the fortress Montrouge. Around the same time, he was a pupil of the caricaturist André Gill (1840 85). Jean-Louis Forain sympathized with the Parisian Communards. After the political situation cooled down, he discovered the etchings of Francisco de Goya (1746 1828). Later on the artist gained entry into the "club zutiste" and the dinner of the "Vilains Bonshommes". In 1874, his first Salon submission, "Nature Morte à la Bouteille", was rejected. He published his first sketches, in "La Cravache parisienne" among other places. At this time, the influence of the Impressionists was definitive, particularly that of Édouard Manet (1832 83) and Edgar Degas (1834 1917). At Degas invitation, Forain participated four times in Impressionist exhibits between 1879 and 1886. The writer Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848 1907) was inspired by Jean-Louis Forains work methods, and in 1878 he had the artist portray him in pastels.
In 1889, Forain established the weekly "Le Fifre", which he both wrote and illustrated himself. After Forain primarily etched realistic scenes from 1875 to 1890, he changed later to lithography. Beginning in 1890, he concentrated on nude women at their toilette and milieu studies. In 1891, his cooperation with the journal "Le Figaro" began. However, other papers too wanted Jean-Louis Forains barbed representations, which which he became a successor to Honoré Daumier (1808 1879). Because of incisive political events, a gradual reorientation of the artist from social to political satire took place. In 1898, Forain started the journal "Psst!" together with Caran dAche (1858 1909).
Beginning in 1902, he occupied himself above all with religious themes and undertook numerous pilgrimages to Lourdes. Additionally, he broadened his thematic circle to dramatic courtroom scenes. In 1913, a retrospective with 390 pages of Jean-Louis Forains works took place in Paris. During World War I, he published his sketches in the papers "Opinion", "Le Figaro" and "Oui", thus showing his true patriotism. After the war, Forain turned gradually away from drawing and back to painting. In 1902, the artist led the Association de la République de Montmartre and the Société des Dessinateurs Humoristes. In 1923, he was elected into the Institut de France and in 1925 to president of the Société National des Beaux Arts.
Jean-Louis Forain died in Paris on July 11, 1931.