After painting bold and loose abstractions in the 1950s and 1960s, Warren Brandt turned toward realism, following a trend embraced by others such as Jack Beal and Jasper Johns. Brandt’s favored subject matter consisted of interiors, nudes, and bright, elaborate still lifes reminiscent of Henri Matisse. He was prolific and defined an artist: “[as] someone who goes into his room and works hard. If you’re good, you stay in that room.”

A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Brandt displayed a precocious interest in drawing, which he exercised at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a visit at age thirteen. After high school graduation he returned to New York and took night classes in illustration at the Pratt Institute while supporting himself as a delivery man for a local company. In 1938, as a twenty-year-old, he hitchhiked to California and spent a year working in animation for Walt Disney. Returning east, he resumed studies at Pratt and rented a space in the prestigious Tenth Street Studio Building. In 1940 he joined the North Carolina National Guard for a period of five and a half years and worked as a portraitist in the U.S. Army during World War II. Using the GI Bill, he returned to New York and started classes at the Art Students League with Yasuo Kuniyoshi, an artist known for nudes and still lifes. He then attended Washington University in St. Louis where his instructors were Philip Guston and Max Beckmann. In 1948 Brandt was awarded a Milliken Fellowship, funding three months in Rome followed by seven months in Paris. 

In 1949 Brandt accepted a job as chair of the art department at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a position he kept for a year. He was painting abstractly, having been impressed by Nicolas de Stael’s work. Back in New York from 1951 to 1952, he taught at the Pratt Institute, studied art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and rented space once again at the Tenth Street Studio Building. In 1953 he left New York, choosing instead a situation near his birthplace and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. From there, he made regular trips to New York where he frequented the Cedar Tavern, a gathering place for many of the well-known abstract expressionists with whom he became friendly, in particular Franz Kline and Jack Tworkov.  He became chair of the art department at the University of Mississippi for a period of two years starting in 1957, spending summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This was followed by a stint at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he built up the art department and established a gallery, exhibiting the work of some of his New York colleagues. After his second marriage, to artist and noted contemporary art dealer Grace Borgenicht in 1960, he settled in New York. Throughout this time, Brandt painted in an abstract expressionist manner, using heavy blacks applied with broad brushstrokes. Here, his style began to drastically change. 

By 1970 Brandt was painting complicated and colorful arrangements of objects—often placed on a brilliant white tablecloth. In the early 1980s he took regular sojourns to Mexico and his palette became earthier as he used somber backgrounds which contrasted the vibrant colors of the items, many with patterns. He also enjoyed depicting rooms with mirrors that reflected his self-portrait, or that led beyond to other rooms. Unlike many artists, Brandt was willing to admit to a long list of artists he admired: Pierre Bonnard’s interiors; Édouard Manet and Pierre Auguste Renoir for their nudes; Paul Cézanne for his landscapes and attention to form; and most of all, Henri Matisse. But despite all of these allegiances, Brandt tried to be true to himself: “You have to solve problems in your own way; your ideas keep changing, but you have to try them as they occur to you…. The thing about being an artist is that you have to do what you do.”

In addition to his extensive experience as an instructor, Brandt published two books. In 1975 Van Nostrand Reinhold issued, as part of its Art in Practice series, Painting with Oils which was thoroughly illustrated by his own work. Eleven years later he collaborated with a bookbinder at the Center for Book Arts on a limited edition called Nudes, which contains drawings, etchings, and photographs. He had regular representation at New York commercial galleries and upon occasion was reviewed in the New York Times. He was a frequent exhibitor, with retrospectives at various venues including the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro,  Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, and Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.