Adriaen Brouwer was born c. 1605/06 in Oudenaarde (Belgium). After the death of his father he left home, and went to Antwerp, followed by Holland. He was about sixteen at that time. He worked in Haarlem in the workshop of Frans Hals (c. 1623-24). In 1631 he returned to Antwerp, became a member of the St. Lukas Guild and ran a small workshop. Brouwer was always in debt, even spending some months in prison. It was Rubens, who highly appreciated the artist and owned 17 of his pictures, who probably obtained Brouwer’s release.
The ordinary life of people was the central theme of the work of Adriaen Brouwer. He combined the subjects of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and the stylistic influences of Frans Hals and Rubens with lively results. He specialized in genre scenes, which took place in dirty, small taverns and inns, visited by peasants, beggars, tramps… They drink, eat, play cards and dice, smoke, sing, fight. Spirit of vitality and careless trouble-making is combined with bitterness and emptiness.
Brouwer is an outstanding master of composition. There are usually two planes in his pictures: in the foreground is the main compact group, in the background, in semidarkness of a tavern, are shadowy figures who mind their own business; with the help of light and shade the artist achieves the effect of deep space. Brouwer’s technique is free and artistic. He also painted a number of extremely important works as a portraitist and landscape artist.
Brouwer’s work stands alone in Flemish painting school. After Bruegel, Brouwer is considered the foremost painter of bucolic themes, the greatest collection of 16 of his works is in the the Alte Pinakothek at Munich.
The artist spent his last years in the house of the known engraver P. Pontius, who worked with Rubens. Brouwer died at early age, in 1638 in Oudenaarde, during the Plague.