The son of the still-life painter Pieter Claesz (1597–1660), Berchem began his studies with his father and, according to Houbraken, was later the pupil of Jan van Goyen, Claes Moeyaert and Pieter de Grebber. He adopted the name Berchem as an adult and was registered as a master in the Haarlem Guild in 1642, after which he may have undertaken a journey to Italy with his cousin Jan Baptist Weenix (1621 – circa 1660). There is no record of his being in the Netherlands until 1646, when he married, or between 1649 and 1656. Whether or not he travelled there, his own landscapes show marked Italianate influences, but this may have been the result of his friendships with other artists who had made the trip south. He was also closely associated with Jacob van Ruisdael (q.v.) and the two artists may have undertaken a sketching tour in Germany together in circa 1650. From 1677 until his death, Berchem lived and worked in Amsterdam, and Pieter de Hooch, Carel Dujardin and Willem Romeyn were among his pupils.
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