De Heem's earliest paintings are precocious fruit pieces produced in his native Utrecht under the influence of Balthasar van der Ast. He moved to Leiden about 1626 and to Antwerp 10 years later.
He was born in 1606 and lived to 1683 or 84. His works betrays the influence of the Haarlem still-life artists Claesz. and Heda (see below) In 1636 he moved to Antwerp, became a citizen in 1637, and spent most of his very productive life there. The paintings he did in Flanders are the ones for which he is most renowned and are very different in spirit from his earlier works: splendid flower pieces and large compositions of exquisitely laid tables which breathe all the opulent exuberance of Flemish Baroque painting. His work formed a link between the Dutch and Flemish still-life traditions and he is claimed by both schools. He came from a large family of painters and his many followers in Flanders and Holland included his son Cornelis - 1631-95.