Received artistic training in Haarlem. In 1641 he moved to England, where it acts as a continuator of van Dyck. Portrait painting in England, flourished in the eighteenth century, in the XVII century was carried out exclusively by foreign masters, finding numerous customers in the Royal court.
The first known genre paintings Leli bear the distinct influence of Caravaggio and his followers in Utrecht. Being in the service of Lord Northumberland, copies of paintings by van Dyck. At the same time, a number of original paintings. Subsequently, after the restoration of the Stuarts, working as court painter of king Charles II of England.
Dutch painter and collector. Lely had studied at the Studio of Peter de Grebber in Haarlem in 1637. In 1643 he went to England and started to write small landscapes and historical compositions. His paintings from this time ("the girl with the music teacher", 1654, private collection) in a manner reminiscent of the works of Metso and van Dyck. But soon, finding nepravilnosti this kind of paintings, Lely devoted himself to the art of portraiture. His first patron was the Earl of Northumberland, who sent him a portrait of "Charles 1, Duke of York" (1647, London, Syon house). Lely, having no political attachment, worked for both the royalists and parliamentarians. In 1654 he was named "best artist of England". Became "Principal painter" in the era of the Restoration, in 1662, he received British citizenship. Since that time, he started working in a new style to match the tastes of the court; so there were many portraits of ladies from high society, lazy and voluptuous. The abundance of orders required to organize a large workshop with numerous assistants. Lely has created a series of portraits of court ladies ("Windsor beauties" of London, HAMPTON Court Palace) and the admirals (London, the Greenwich Maritime Museum), which style is very close to Dutch painting. A typical example of the late style of the artist is wonderful in color the portrait of lady Barbara Fitzroy (C. 1670, York, Mountains. art Gal.). If in his early works of Lely, like van Dyck, sought to Express the spirit and character models, then he began to emphasize their artificial grace. Models now take conditional positions negate any differences between them. Lely was the first English painter who had a big Studio, and his portraits imitated other artists until the middle of XVIII century Besides painting, Lely was also a collector of paintings and drawings; his collection is especially rich in works of the Venetian masters, Veronese, Bassano, Tintoretto, Paris Bordone, Guercino, Guido Reni. Sold after the artist's death, Lely's collection also included works by van Dyck, Claude Lorrain, Rubens, and many Flemish and Dutch landscape painters.