Van Dyck was born in Antwerp and became an independent painter in 1615. In his younger years, he was the chief assistant of Peter Paul Rubens. In 1620, he came to England for the first time but did not succeed in getting presented to King James I. After 4 months he returned to Flanders. He then went to Italy where he remained for 6 years studying the Italian masters and laying the foundations of his career as a successful portraitist. In 1627, he went back to Antwerp where for some years he painted a host of masterpieces. His reputation reached the ears of Charles I of England who recalled him. In 1632, Van Dyck again arrived in London. His success in England was rapid. He painted portraits of King Charles, Queen Henrietta, the king's mistress Margaret Lemon, the splendid group of the king's children, and of himself. In the latter part of his life he only gave finishing touches to the portraits which were for the most part painted by his pupils after his own designs.
In July 1632, he was knighted, and in 1633 elected painter to the king. He received a considerable pension and married the daughter of Lord Ruthven. In 1634, he took a short journey to Antwerp, and in 1641, another one to France.
Anthony van Dyck died in 1641 in London, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.
Van Dyck had a great influence on English portrait painting. Therefore, some scholars call him the founder of the English school of painting.
Van Dyck was also known for painting portraits of people having short, pointed beards (), and that's why this particular kind of beard was named after him a vandyke. During the reign of George III, a generic "Cavalier" fancy-dress costume called a 'Van Dyke' was popular; Gainsborough's 'Blue Boy' is wearing such a 'Van Dyke' outfit.