John Folinsbee was born in Buffalo, NY. He studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York and with several artists in Connecticut and Woodstock. He settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in 1916, and joined the group of artists generally known as the New Hope School or the Pennsylvania Impressionists. These included Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Robert Spencer, and William Lathrop. His work has been exhibited and collected widely throughout the country. In 1953, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, one of the highest honors an artist can receive.
The summer of 1906, Folinsbee was diagnosed with polio, putting him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Shortly after his diagnosis, his brother was killed in a car accident. Despite these setbacks, Folinsbee started at the Art Students League in 1912. The earlier portion of his career was marked with his impressionism, using tight brush strokes, broadening them from the mid 1920s forward. During the summer, Folinsbee and his family would vacation in Maine, where he would load his equipment onto a boat, never once letting his disability inhibit his talent.
Folinsbee's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, National Academy of Design, Phillips Collection (Washington), Corcoran Gallery of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, New Jersey State Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, Philadelphia Art Club, Reading Art Museum, the National Art Club, and the James A. Michener Museum, among others.