Born 1591/92, Rotterdam–Died. 1625, Haarlem
Dutch painter and engraver, nicknamed "Geestige Willem" (Witty Willem). He was active in his native Rotterdam and in Haarlem, where he was closely associated with Frans Hals. Although his surviving output as a painter is tiny, he is one of the most interesting artists during the first years of the great period of Dutch painting. His pictures of dandies, fashionable ladies, topers, and lusty wenches are among the most spirited Dutch genre scenes, and instituted the category known as the "Merry Company" (Merry Company, Boijmans Museum, Rotterdam).
His engravings are more numerous, and include genre scenes, fashion plates, and etchings of the Dutch countryside. He had an important influence on painting in Haarlem. His son Willem the Younger (1625–1670) was also a painter. An example of his very rare work—a landscape—is in the National Gallery, London.