An adventurous soul, inherited partially from his father explorer Jean-Baptiste-Leonard Durand, Henri Durand-Brager explored the world's reaches. If not for some fateful moments he would have probably settled into a naval career rather than that of an artist. His youthful travels included the coasts of Africa, Asia and South America, and his repertoire contains scenes of these lands and seas. His father had led similar explorations during his career, including a voyage to Senegal on which he was shipwrecked. To avoid such possible hardships, he encouraged Henri to study art.
He trained at the side of Eugene Isabey, who himself produced a significant number of coastal scenes amongst his old master influenced genre paintings. Isabey instilled an emphasis on humanity's interaction with nature with Durand-Brager, who saw the primal forces of the environment as a subject suitable for fine art on its own. They both worked extensively with numerous technical drawings before committing their works to oil on canvas.
Bordering the edge of the educational art direction which would soon produce the important impressionist and Plein-Air methodologies of art, Durand-Brager's works demonstrate some of the basic tenants of emotional strength and interpretive loose brush within his seas and skies, while his subject ships and people hold to realistic looks. He found favor and patrons in the royal houses of Russia and Austria, and the French provincial government.