Flemish by origin, Van Dael spent most of his life in France. He first studied architecture in his native Antwerp before going to Paris in 1786. There he was commissioned to assist in the trompe ['ceil decorations for the chateaux of Saint Cloud, Bellevue, and Chantilly. The influence of his master, Gerard van Spaendonck, was instrumental in Van Dael's decision to specialize in still life paintings of fruits and flowers, thereafter relegating interior decoration, portraits, religious subjects, and landscapes to raritiesin his ceuvre. He exhibited for the first time at the Salon of 1793, the same year he was given quarters at the Louvre. From 1806 to 1817 he lived at the Sorbonne as an artist protected by the State. Patronized by Louis XVIII and Charles X, as well as the empresses Josephine and Marie-Louise, Van Dael was decorated as a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1825. He was interred in the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, next to his former teacher, Van Spaendonck. A highly successful painter who commanded high prices for his work, Van Dael taught a number of students who continued the northern tradition of flower painting.