Adriaan was born in 1605/1606 in Oudenaarde, as a son of a tapestries’ cardboard painter. From 1621 onwards he lived in Antwerp for several years. His name has been mentioned for the first time in a deed drawn up in Amsterdam on 23 July 1626, as he, as a witness, makes a statement about a trade in paintings.
At the end of 1631 he was a member of the Guild of St Luke in Antwerp. At that time Antwerp’s School of Arts was world-famous with artists such as Rubens, Van Dijck and Jordaans. Numerous times Brouwer had to deal with debt problems in Antwerp and his belongings were possessed. For a while he was even imprisoned by the Spanish for political reasons. Reportedly, he was set free thanks to the intervention of Peter Paul Rubens.
After his release he probably lived together with painter-baker Joos van Craesbeek who he met in the prison canteen. Adriaan Brouwer, having many debts, died in January 1638. Initially he was buried in a common grave.
On February 1, 1638 he was unearthed and got a ceremonial funeral in the church of the Carmelites in Antwerp.