A portrait and landscape painter who received special attention for his floral work, Adrian Brewer was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and raised between there and New York City as one of six sons of Rose Koempel Brewer and Nicholas Brewer, prominent late 19th-century portrait and landscape artist.
Throughout his life, Adrian was influenced by his father, and during his childhood, he was exposed to many visual artists as well as opera stars and prominent literary people.
Adrian Brewer attended the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul and also the University of Minnesota. During this time, he studied with Delle E Randall at the St. Paul Institute School of Art and at the Art Students League* in New York City. But he later said he learned more from his father's friends including Charles Hawthorne, Edwin Blashfield and Irving Wiles than from his art classes.
In 1915, he returned to St. Paul where he taught briefly at the St. Paul Institute School of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and also did commercial art for a bank, a thermostat company and Pillsbury flour mills.
During World War I, he was a pilot and did patriotic illustration. After the War, he traveled with his father to assist him with commissions and began getting recognition for his own work. He enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago* and in 1920, was elected a member of the Palette and Chisel Club* of Chicago.
He and his father first traveled to Arkansas in 1912 where they had an exhibition of their paintings in hotels in Hot Springs and Little Rock. There he met Edwina Cook, who became his wife, and they settled in Little Rock, although he had a period of commuting back and forth between Minnesota and Arkansas.
He began focusing on landscapes, doing plein-air* painting, and traveled extensively in the South and Southwest including Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Arizona. One of the paintings from that period is titled Navajo Country (William Reaves).
Brewer lived in Arkansas for thirty-three years and became known for his portraits of prominent citizens. He turned to this subject in 1929 for economic reasons, painting over 300 Arkansas subjects.
But it is thought that his genius lay in pastoral landscape paintings of the Southwest and rural scenes of his adopted state. In addition to Arkansas landscapes, he made annual trips to Texas, where he painted and sold his works in the San Antonio area. His skyscapes were especially popular, and "he was thought to be the first painter working in Texas 'to make a systematic effort' to paint Texas skies. (Dawdy, V. III, p. 48).
He was an entrant in the 1927 San Antonio, Texas art exhibit titled "Texas Wildflower Landscapes", and in 1928, in that same exhibition event, distinguished himself with a first place Open Category floral landscape winner titled In a Bluebonnet Year. Bringing him to San Antonia at that time was a painting trip to the art colony there with his New York friends, Charles Hawthorne and Wayman Adams. He and his father had done numerous field studies the previous spring to achieve skill in Texas wildflower landscapes, but his father had become frustrated and given up. However, Adrian had persisted, and his winning of the event brought him widespread attention.
Adrian continued to paint floral landscapes for several years and sold a number of them through a New York Gallery. He also painted 126 New Mexico landscapes, often incorporating native-American figures into them.
In 1932, with the help of Powell Scott, he established the Adrian Brewer School of Art in Little Rock, but in spite of being academically successful, it had to close during the Depression.
During World War II, he ran the art classes at the Little Rock U.S.O. and after the war established a studio in Little Rock at 510 North Cedar Street, which became a gathering place for artists, writers, and musicians. Later he and his son, Adrian, organized the Arkansas Art League.
Adrian Brewer died of lung cancer in 1956 at age 65, and in 1961 a memorial exhibition of his work was held at the Fine Arts Gallery at the University of Arkansas.