Berchem was the most important and versatile of the so-called Dutch Italianates – painters who produced landscapes with a distinctly Italian flavour. Born in Haarlem, he studied under his father, the still-life painter Pieter Claesz. The surname ‘Berchem’ was adopted when he entered the studio of the landscape painter Jan van Goyen. He took up the classicising Italianate style of northern landscapists such as Cornelis van Poelenburgh. It is uncertain if Berchem ever actually visited Italy, or if he captured the warm Italian sunlight through admiring the work of other artists. Berchem collaborated with artists such as Jan Baptist Weenix, Jacob van Ruisdael and Meindert Hobbema, by adding figures to their work. Eventually settling in Amsterdam, he enjoyed a prolific painting career.