Mary Beale (1633 – 1699) was an English portrait painter. She became one of the most important portrait painters of 17th-century England, and has been described as the first professional female English painter.
Beale was born in Barrow, Suffolk, the daughter of John Cradock, a Puritan rector. Her mother, Dorothy, died when she was ten. Her father was an amateur painter, and member of the Painter-Stainers' Company, and she was acquainted with local artists, such as Nathaniel Thach, Matthew Snelling, Robert Walker and Peter Lely. She became a semi-professional portrait painter in the 1650s and 1660s, working from her home, first in Covent Garden and later in Fleet Street. She became successful, and her circle of friends included Thomas Flatman, poet Samuel Woodford, the Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson, and Bishops Edward Stillingfleet and Gilbert Burnet. She became reacquainted with Peter Lely, now Court Artist to Charles II. Her later work is heavily influenced by Lely, being mainly small portraits or copies of Lely's work. Her work became unfashionable after his death in 1680.