Anton von Werner was born into a family of officers on May 9, 1843 in Frankfurt an der Oder. From 1862 Anton von Werner studied painting at the art academies of Berlin and Karlsruhe. In 1865 he produced his first own historical piece during a trip to Paris. He gained his first acclaim with his illustrations for a work by Victor von Scheffels, "Der Trompeter von Säkkingen". Anton von Werner spent three years studying in France and Italy.
In 1870 he first met Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, later Emperor Friedrich III (1831-88). Upon recommendation of the grand duchess of Baden, he attended the victorious final phase of the Franco-German war as an observer. His impressions from that time influenced his subsequent artwork greatly. In 1871 Anton von Werner was invited by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm to witness the formation of the empire, which he subsequently turned into the subject of his most famous painting "Die Proklamation des Deutschen Kaiserreichs im Spiegelsaal zu Versailles am 18. Januar 1871".
He finished this oil painting for Kaiser Wilhelm I's 80th birthday on March 22, 1877. In 1875 Anton von Werner became the head of the newly established teaching institution of the Prussian academy, "Hochschule für Bildende Künste", and was a member of the Prussian "Landeskunstkommission".
Anton von Werner worked in this position for 40 years up until his death. In 1878 Anton von Werner first lead the Commission for the Organization of German Art Exhibitions at the Paris world exposition. In 1895 Werner became chairman of the "Verein Berliner Künstler", which he remained for 20 years. He was also working in numerous positions as an administrator and organizer.
In 1904 he lead the organization of the German art department in the world exposition of Melbourne, where Werner himself showed 6 works. As Berlin court painter, Anton von Werner produced numerous paintings of historical events and political life. The artistic value of these works is controversial, but thanks to their skillful implementation and the aspired documentary accuracy, they remain interesting to date. At the occasion of his 70th birthday, Anton von Werner was supposed to be honored with a retrospective, which failed to materialize when Werner refused to hold back some pictures which glorified the German military in the war of 1870-71.
In 1913 Werner's autobiography was published under the title "Erlebnisse und Eindrücke 1870-1890". Anton von Werner died on January 4, 1915 in Berlin at the age of 72. He was one of the most influential officials for culture in Wilhelmian Germany and received numerous decorations and honors. As a confidant of Kaiser Wilhelm II, he had a decisive influence on his conservative cultural policy, which was opposed to modern movements.