Baptised on 30 November 1636 in Amsterdam, the younger brother of the marine painter Willem van de Velde the younger. He was first taught by his father, the marine artist Willem van de Velde the elder (1611-93), and then by Wijnants,in Haarlem; his mature work reflects the influences of Potter, Berchem and Wouwermans.
His earliest dated works are etchings of 1653 and landscape paintings of 1654. He was also an accomplished painter of figures for other artists (such as Ruisdael and van der Heyden), and he appears to have helped in his father's studio (see The Embarkation of Charles II at Scheveningen, by W. van de Velde).
There is no firm evidence for a visit to Rome. He married in 1654 in Amsterdam, where he seems to have settled, and where he was buried on 21 January 1671.