Harmen (van) Steenwijck was born in Delft in 1612, the son of the spectacle and lens maker Evert Harmensz. His father came from Steenwijck (Overijssel) and had settled in in Delft only a year before the birth of his oldest son. In 1628 Harmen began studying with his uncle, the Leiden still life painter David Bailly. His younger brother Pieter followed him to Leiden only a few years later, and also specialised in still life painting. After completing his training, on 16 or 18 November 1636 Harmen joined the Guild of St Luke in his home town, Delft. In the following year he also became a member of the citizens' militia. Around 1654 he set out on a voyage to East India, present-day Indonesia, but returned to Delft only a year later. There he is last documented on 6 January 1656.
Steenwijck painted mainly still lifes with fruit and game, but also a few vanitas compositions. To his market scenes and interiors with objects arranged in the manner of a still life, he generally added a figure.