He was born at Breslau, Germany, from a remarkable family: his father Oscar was an otolaryngologist and his mother, Hedwig Lion, a woman of great culture. Therefore he grew up in an intellectual milieu, surrounded by books. After attending St. Maria Magdalena Gymnasium, and graduating in 1916, he fought for Germany in World War I where he was wounded in Flanders. After the armistice in 1919, Brieger studied various humanistic disciplines at the universities in Breslau and Munich. He finally settled up on art history and between 1922-1927 he was an assistant under August Grisebach at Breslau. He received his Ph.D. in Art history in 1924, writing a dissertation on Baroque art. Between 1927-1928 he researched at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome. He came back to Breslau as a professor and in 1931 he married Barbara Ritter, a historian. In 1933, anticipating the Jewish persecution in Nazi-Germany, Brieger left for Paris and then to London, where he secured work on the Atlas of Medieval Art and Architecture in England. In 1936 he moved to Canada where he started his academic career at the University of Toronto where he became a professor in 1947. In 1957 he wrote the volume English Art, 1216-1307. He worked for various American universities, as well. He died at Toronto in 1983.