Heymans was a pupil of Jacob Jacobs at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp from 1854 until 1856. In 1856 he joined Isidore Meyers – a former fellow-student of the academy – in Paris. Both stayed there until 1858, working in Fontainebleau and Barbizon where they became fascinated by the natural light. On his return to Belgium, Heymans settled in the village of Wechelderzande, near Antwerp - which he still remembered from his childhood. Heymans painted landscapes with pale tonalities using wide brush strokes. During his career Heymans continued to depict the same landscape with a sensible eye for changing seasons and the play of light. Through his stylistic evolution Heymans remained concernedwith depicting the right tonality, the solidity of the composition and the beauty of the line.
Heymans formed, together with Florent Crabeels, Isidore Meyers and Jacques Rosseels, the School van Kalmthout. All of them were already working around the village of Kalmthout near Antwerp, when in 1861 they met by coincidence. From this day on they formed the nucleus of plein-air artists in the Kempen-region. All of their paintings are characterised by grey tonalities because a monochrome colour scheme is one of the most effective ways to depict the delicate colour nuances of the landscape. An objective vision of the landscape was of primal importance to them. With subtle tonal values and grey harmonies they belong to the forerunners of impressionism in Belgium. From 1866 until 1869 Heymans shared a studio with Florent Crabeels in Antwerp. In 1868 the Brussels landscape painter Théodore Baron showed up in the village of Kalmthout. He told them of equally minded young artists working in the village of Tervuren near the capital. In 1869 Heymans joined Théodore Baron in Brussels. From then on he did spent the winter months in Brussels and most of the year in his beloved village of Wechelderzande, where he build himself a house in 1877. It was here that young artists like Richard Baseleer, Albert Crahay, Henry Deglume, Alfred Hazledine and Henry Van de Velde became his pupils. From 1875 on a few trips to the city of Dendermonde and in Holland led him to spent more attention to reflections of light on water and to use more sparkling colours.
In his long career Adrien Joseph Heymans evolved from Barbizon-like landscape painting towards post-impressionism. He constantly searched for a solution to problems created by the objective realism. His observation of the light finally led him to evolve into a moderate impressionism and even a personal neo-impressionism around 1890. The grey tonalities and subsequently impressionism ended in the last twenty active years of his career into a luminist vision. Adrien Joseph Heymans was one of the most poetic artists of the Kempen-region. In a delicate way he rendered the atmosphere of a landscape, mostly situated around the village of Wechelderzande. Around 1914 Heymans virtually stopped painting due to a bad health.
Heymans was a member of L’Art indépendant (1887), Les XIII (1891), Kunst van heden – L’Art contemporain and Vie et lumière (1904). He showed his paintings at exhibitions of the Société Libre des Beaux-Arts (1872), Les XX (1884), Voorwaerts (1892 & 1893) and La Libre Esthétique (1894, 1900, 1905,1911). His art was praised by critics like Camille Lemonnier, Octave Maus, Pol De Mont, Henry Van de Velde and Emile Verhaeren.
Adrien Joseph Heymans participated in exhibitions in Antwerp, Berlin, Bern, Brussels, Ghent, The Hague, Liège, München, Ostend, Paris and Rome. His paintings where show at the World Exhibitions of Paris in 1900, Brussels in 1935 and at the Venice Biennials of 1901, 1903, 1912 and 1938. Important individual shows of Heymans were organised in Antwerp (1902, 1928) and in Brussels (1880,1891,1893,1909,1922 & 1954). Most retrospective expositions of Belgian Art included works by Heymans.
Museums: Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp; Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels; Collection of the Belgian Chamber, Brussels; Collection of the Belgian State, Brussels; Musée Charlier, Sint-Joost-ten-Node (Brussels); Gemeentelijk Museum van Elsene - Musée Communale d'Ixelles, Brussels; Musée Camille Lemonnier, Elsene (Brussels); City Museum, Dendermonde; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; Musée du Petit Palais, Genève; Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent; Museum of Fine Arts, Liège; City Museum, Namur