He learned the art of painting from Michael Coxcie. He matriculated in the Guild of St Luke at Brussels in 1607, resided in the capital of Brabant till after 1660, and finally settled at Ghent. Amongst the numerous pictures which he painted in Ghent, the Martyrdom of St Blaise in the town museum bears the inscription A 1668 aet.
Crayer was one of the most productive yet one of the most conscientious artists of the later Flemish school, second to Rubens in vigour and below Van Dyck in refinement, but nearly equalling both in most of the essentials of painting. He was well known and always well treated by Archduke Albert of Austria and Archduchess Isabella, governors of the Netherlands. The cardinal-Infante Ferdinand made him a court-painter. His pictures abound in the churches and museums of Brussels and Ghent; and there is scarcely a country chapel in Flanders or Brabant that cannot offer one or more of his canvases. But he was equally respected beyond his native country; and some important pictures of his composition are to be found as far south as Aix en Provence and as far east as Amberg in the Upper Palatinate.
His skill as a decorative artist is shown in the panels executed for a triumphal arch at the ceremonial entry of Cardinal Ferdinand into the Flemish capital, some of which are publicly exhibited in the museum of Ghent. His best works are the Miraculous Draught of Fishes in the gallery of Brussels, the Judgment of Solomon in the gallery of Ghent, and Madonnas with Saints in the Louvre, the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, and the Belvedere at Vienna. His portrait by Van Dyck (illustration above) was engraved by Paulus Pontius.