Born in Harlem in 1653, van der Vaart was trained by Thomas Wyck and moved to England in 1674 as a painter of still-lifes and small landscapes with figures. He painted draperies for the fashionable portrait painter Willem Wissing from about 1685 to 1687; the finest example of their collaboration is a Portrait of Theresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1687; London, National Portrait Gallery). He may also be have been the 'Landervart' who together with Wissing and others, completed many of Lely'’s unfinished studio paintings after his death. After 1713, he established a picture restoration business. He also practised as a mezzotint-engraver, working for the publishers Richard Thompson and Edward Cooper, and is believed to have taught the engraver John Smith. He was buried at St. Paul’s, Cvent Garden in 1727.
Marshall Smith, author of the The Art of Painting (1692), commented that van der Vaart 'Paints a Face and Posture very well, Landskip, Foul &c. extraordinary fine and is to be Rank’d among the great Masters of the Age' (M.K. Talley, Portrait Painting in England: Studies in the Technical Literature before 1700, Guildford, 1981, pp. 378-9).