Adrion left his native town of Strasbourg aged 18, where he had begun his studies in art and travelled to Paris where he found employment drawing fashion plates. He could not settle and, as Gérald Schurr refers to it, his “humeur vagabonde” led him to London, Munich and Frankfurt. There he was trapped by the outbreak of the First World War and had to go to Berlin where he was de-mobilised.
Making the best of the situation, he entered the studio of Hermann Struck, who was also the master of Chagall, and remained in Berlin until after the end of the war. At the age of 30 Adrion retraced his steps to Frankfurt, where he began to produce signed lithographs, and from there he made his way back to Paris. Soon after his return he signed a contract with the dealer Chéron who staged his first one-man show in February 1921.
He acquired a studio in Montparnasse and began to associate with the young Eastern European painters such as Chaime Soutine, Krémegne and Kikoine who were coming to preside over the artistic community. In spite of his friendship with these young bloods of the avant-garde, Adrion swiftly made his reputation in orthodox manner as “le peintre des rues parisiennes”.
His fame rested on his ability to perfectly capture the bustle of crowds on the boulevards; as Galtier-Boissiére wrote, “Il a le sens du mouvement des foules, du mouvement de la vie”. Just when his future security seemed guaranteed the “humeur vagabonde” again came to the fore. He tore up his contract with Chéron and left Paris for the sunlit beaches of Normandy which immediately supplanted the streets of Paris as his favourite subject. These too soon proved just as popular. No longer under contract to exhibit with one gallery he found it necessary to show his paintings to as wide an audience as possible and so in 1926, at the age of 37, he made his exhibiting debut at the Salon des Indépendants.
He continued to show his beach scenes there and from 1940 he also exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and at the Salon des Tuileries from the following year. He died in Paris in 1953. An important retrospective of his works was held at a gallery in Cologne in March 1973 and this reinforced the importance of beach scenes among his oeuvre. These and his Parisian subjects appear fairly regularly at auction, and during the 1970s more than 100 of works appeared at auction, although only a handful were sold in England or America.