Berchem was the son of the still life painter, Pieter Claesz. and he adopted the surname Berchem. He was baptised in Haarlem on 1 October 1620. According to Houbraken be studied with his father and then with Jan van Goyen, Nicolaes Moeyaert, Pieter de Grebber, Johannes Wils and with his cousin, Jan Baptist Weenix, although this is unlikely as the latter was younger than Berchem. He entered the Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem in June 1642 and already later that year is recorded as having three pupils. He possibly went to Italy with Jan Baptist Weenix and is said to be recorded in Rome frorn the winter of 1642-43 until 1645. He drew up his will in Haarlem in 1649. He probably revisited Italy sometime between 1651 and 1653. From 1656 be is documented in Haarlem where be probably lived until 1677 when be settled in Amsterdam. He died there on 18 February 1683. In Italy be made landscape studies which served him for his compositions throughout his life. He is the main Dutch painter of Italianate pastoral landscapes. As an artist be was very prolific. Apart front Italianate landscapes, be also painted imaginary southern harbor scenes, winter landscapes, hunts and battle scenes and some religious and mythological subjects. He bad many pupils including Pieter de Hooch, Jacob Ochtervett, Karel Dujardin, Dirck Maes and Willem Romeyn. Among his closest imitators are Willem Romeyn and Dirk van Bergen.
Berchem's sojourn in Italy had a powerful impact on his career and throughout his life he continued to produce romanticised interpretations of the Italian scene. Small pictures inducing a nostalgia for warmer climates, were very popular among Northern collectors and remained so until well into the nineteenth century. His reputation later fell into decline and Constable, when asked by a collector if it would be advisable to sell his paintings by Berchem, remarked that it would be better to burn them.
maginary ruins bathed in a warm pinkish light figure frequently in Berchem's oeuvre and he builds up the composition with greater showiness than his Italian counterparts. A characteristic mood of lightness is apparent in the gay patches of bright color, the wispy clouds and the dancing movement of the figures and animals. Landscape with wells, ca. 1645, Vaduz, Liechtenstein