Julie Morrow DeForest was born April 30, 1882 in New York City, and grew up in Connecticut, moving with her minister father to Bethlehem, Danbury and Norwich during the first twenty years of her life. DeForest was always interested in art, but majored in literature in college earning her B.A. degree in English from Wellesley College, Massachusetts in 1904. She did take some art courses in college, as well as studying elsewhere with Charles W. Hawthorne, Jonas Lie and John Carlson. She completed her M.A. degree in literature from Columbia University, New York City in 1906. This would lead her to a twenty year teaching career in high school.
She painted as much as she could during the school year, on summer vacations, and during two sabbaticals. Deforest exhibited her work at major venues like the Provincetown Art Association in Massachusetts, the National Academy of Design, and National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, both in New York City. In 1926, she exhibited twenty paintings in a two-person show at the Milch Galleries, New York City, with the then-well-known artist William Ritschel. DeForest first traveled to the western United States in 1928, spending a summer in Carmel, California, and beginning a twenty year experience with the West, the California coast and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. In 1929 when she was in her late forties, she married a business executive and could afford to quit teaching and devote herself full-time to painting and poetry.
DeForest had one-person exhibitions at the Closson Galleries, Cincinnati, in 1934 and 1935; Argent Galleries, New York City, 1936; Marie Sterner Gallery, New York City, 1940 and 1942; and the Newhouse Gallery, New York City, in 1947. Group shows included the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and four locations in New York City: Allied Artists of America; Brooklyn Museum; National Arts Club; and the New York World's Fair. Julie DeForest's work is in the collections of a number of colleges and universities including Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbia University, New York City; Fisk University; Howard University; American Christian College, Tulsa, Oklahoma; as well as Hillforest Museum, Aurora, Indiana; Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich, Connecticut; and other Cincinnati, Ohio venues including the Cincinnati Art Museum; City of Cincinnati; Christ Hospital; American Red Cross; and Cloverdale Home for the Blind.
Julie Morrow DeForest died in her ninety-seventh year on December 22, 1979 in Glendale, Ohio.