Born on 18 February 1815 in Antwerp where he studied at the Academy under F. de Braekeleer. By 1833 he was exhibiting historical subjects. He visited Paris in 1835 and 1839 and toured in Germany 1852, when his admiration for Dutch seventeenth-century masters (particularly Rembrandt and de Hooch) was supplanted by the discovery of the German sixteenth-century masters, Cranach, Holbein, Massys and Durer.
His work consistently illustrated Flemish history (he painted a series of episodes for the Antwerp Town Hall 1861-8). Alma-Tadema became his pupil in 1859. He was created baron in 1862, and died in Antwerp on 26 August 1869.