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Trails of a Paintbrush: An Artist’s Memoir

by Nicholas R. Brewer

with a New Foreword by Julie L’Enfant

Dimensions: 9″ x 6″, 400 pages, 100+ b/w illustrations


ISBN: 978-1-7361021-2-1

Comparatively few visual artists have written autobiographies, and Trails of a Paintbrush by Nicholas R. Brewer (18571949) is an especially engaging story of an artist’s education and rise to success. From his beginnings on a pioneering Minnesota farm, Brewer was curious, industrious, and responsive to nature. Moving to St. Paul and later New York, he had little formal training but learned quickly from his many artist friends and acquaintances, including Homer Dodge Martin and George Inness. Brewer eventually became nationally known as a landscapist and portraitist, dubbed “the Abraham Lincoln of American art.”

Brewer was perhaps unique in his long campaign of traveling exhibitions that included lectures on his guiding principles. The goal of the artist, in his view, is to interpret the beauties of nature through form and color, conveying simple, unchanging truths rather than ephemeral facts. Often linked with Tonalism and Impressionism, Brewer resisted what he saw as the distortions of early modern Expressionists and Cubists, arguing for a “return to the sane and truly progressive along all lines.” His belief in an art that communicates with and uplifts the public will resonate with many today.

This is an inspiring story of rags to riches and the growth of wisdom through tireless self-education in art, history, politics, and religion. It is also an entertaining account of Brewer’s interactions with the famous (Ignace Paderewski, Maud Powell, Franklin D. Roosevelt) and the not-so-famous of his time. Trails of a Paintbrush was originally published in 1938 in a limited edition of 250 copies, which are now rare and costly. The Afton Press reprint is a faithful reproduction, including over ninety-five photographs and artwork.

About Julie L’Enfant:

Julie L’Enfant is a leading American art historian and award-winning author. Her earlier art books for Afton Press include THE GAG FAMILY: German Bohemian Artists in America; PIONEER MODERNISTS: Minnesota’s First Generation of Women Artists; OTHER REALITIES: The Art of Paul S. Kramer; and NICHOLAS R. BREWER: His Art and Family.

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