Michael Forster has been called “Canada’s pioneer surrealist” (Paul Duval), played a prominent role Canadian art for more than sixty years. He was born in Kolkata, India, in 1907, but spent most of his childhood in Meerut. He studied first at Lancing College in Sussex and then at the Central School of Arts (now Central St. Martins – University of the Arts), as well as the Académie Colarossi in Paris. He moved to Toronto, Ontario in 1927-1928 and began working as a freelance illustrator and commercial artist.
In 1938 Forster attended the Canadian National Exhibition, and the Surrealist section deeply impacted him. In 1943, Forster was one of 14 individuals to be selected as an official war artist during World War II. His sombre and intense records of the carnage of war now belong in the Canadian War Museum. After the war, he became familiar with Jean-Paul Riopelle and the Canadian Automatistes. His abstract surrealist-inspired paintings were created with acrylics and acrylic polymers. One of his aims was to portray the transference of light and the quality of nature into immediate abstract forms. He took great inspiration from the ever-changing effects of light and cloud formations. Similarly to Appel, Forster claimed these works were unplanned and were created from his subconscious.
In 1960 he was honoured with a solo show at the Museo Nacional in Mexico City. His paintings have been exhibited in leading museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d’art Moderne in Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the British Museum.