Brouwer, Adrian

, a celebrated painter, according to some, was born at Oudenarde, in Flanders, or according to others, at Haerlem, in Holland, in 1608. His parents were of the poorer sort. His mother sold to the country people bonnets and handkerchiefs, on which Adrian, when almost in infancy, used to paint flowers and birds, and while thus employed, was discovered by Francis Hals, an eminent artist, who, charmed with the ease and taste he displayed in his art, proposed to take him as an apprentice, and Brouwer did not long hesitate about accepting such an dffer. His master soon discovered his superior talents, and separated him from his companions, that he might profit the better by him, locked him up in a garret, and compelled him to work, while he nearly starved him, but some pieces he painted by stealth, which probably irritated his jailor to be more watchful of him. By the advice, however, of Adrian Van Ostade, one of his companions, he contrived to make his escape, and took refuge in a church. There, almost naked, and not knowing where to go, he was recognised by some person, who brought him back to his master, and by means of a suit of clothes and some caresses, effected a temporary reconciliation; but being again subjected to the same mercenary and tyrannical usage, he made his escape a second time, and went to Amsterdam, where he had the happiness to find that his name was well known, and that his works bore a great price. A picture dealer with whom he lodged, gave him an hundred ducatoons for a painting representing gamesters, admirably executed, which Brouwer, who had never possessed so much money, spent in a tavern in the course of ten days. He then returned to his employer, and when asked what he had done with his money, answered that he had got rid of it, that he might be more at leisure; and this unfortunate propensity to alternate work and extravagance marked the whole of his future life, and involved him in many ridiculous adventures and embarrassments unworthy of a man of genius. As | soon as ‘he had finished any piece, he offered it for sale; and if it did not produce a stipulated price, he burnt it, and began another with greater care. Possessing a vein of low humour, and engaging, both sober and drunk, in many droll adventures, he removed from Amsterdam to Antwerp, where he was arrested as a spy, and committed to prison. This circumstance introduced him to an acquaintance with the duke d’Aremberg, who, having observed his genius, by some slight sketches drawn with black lead while in custody, requested Rubens to furnish him with materials for painting. Brouwer chose for his subject a groupe of soldiers playing at cards in a corner of the prison; and when the picture was finished, the duke himself was astonished, and Rubens, when he saw it, offered for it the sum of 600 guilders. The duke, however, retained it, and gave the painter a much larger sum. Upon this, Rubens procured his release, and received him into his house; but, uninfluenced by gratitude to his benefactor, he stole away, and returned to the scenes of low debauch, to which he had been formerly accustomed. Being reduced to the necessity of flying from justice, he took refuge in France; and, having wandered through several towns, he was at length constrained by indigence to return to Antwerp, where he was taken ill, and obliged to seek relief in an hospital; and in this asylum of self-procured poverty and distress he died in his 32d year. Rubens lamented his death, and procured for him an honourable interment in the church of the Carmelites.

Such were the talents of Brouwer, that, in the course of a dissipated life, he attained to distinguished excellence in the style of painting which he adopted. His subjects were taken from low life, and copied after nature; such as droll conversations, feasts, taverns, drunken quarrels, boors playing and disputing at cards, or surgeons dressing the wounded. His expression, however, is so lively and characteristic; the management of his colours so surprising; and truth was united with exquisite high finishing, correctness of drawing, and wonderful transparence, to such a degree, that his paintings are more valuable, and afford higher prices, than many works of the most eminent masters. Some of his best works are found at Dusseldorp. His drawings are dispersed in the various cabinets of Europe, Several of his designs have been engraved; and we have some few etchings by himself of subjects usually | represented in his pictures, which are signed with the initials of his name, H. B.; Adrian being spelled with an H.1


Argenville, vol. III.—Descamps, vol. II.—Pilkington.—Strutt.