Govert Flinck was apprenticed by his father to a silk mercer, but having secretly acquired a passion for etching and drawing, was sent to Leeuwarden, where he boarded in the house of Lambert Jacobszoon, a Mennonite, better known as an itinerant preacher than as a painter.
Here Flinck was joined by Jacob Backer, and the companionship of a youth determined like himself to be an artist only confirmed his passion for painting. Amongst the neighbours of Jacobszon at Leeuwarden were the sons and relations of Rombertus van Uylenburgh, whose daughter Saskia married Rembrandt in 1634. For many years Flinck laboured on the lines of Rembrandt, following that master's style in all the works which he executed between 1636 and 1648. With aspirations as a history painter, however, he looked to the swelling forms and grand action of Peter Paul Rubens, which led to many commissions for official and diplomatic painting. Flinck's relations with Cleves became in time very important. He was introduced to the court of the Great Elector, Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg, who possessed the Duchy and who married in 1646 Louisa of Orange. He obtained the patronage of John Maurice of Nassau, who was made stadtholder of Cleves in 1649.