He was the brother of Jacob van Huysum, and the son of Justus van Huysum, who is said to have been expeditious in decorating doorways, screens and vases. A picture by Justus is preserved in the gallery of Brunswick, representing "Orpheus and the Beasts in a wooded landscape", and here we have some explanation of his son's fondness for landscapes of a conventional and Arcadian kind; for Jan van Huysum, though skilled as a painter of still life, believed himself to possess the genius of a landscape painter.
Half his pictures in public galleries are landscapes, views of imaginary lakes and harbours with impossible ruins and classic edifices, and woods of tall and motionless trees-the whole very glossy and smooth, and entirely lifeless. The earliest dated work of this kind is that of 1717, in the Louvre, a grove with maidens culling flowers near a tomb, ruins of a portico, and a distant palace on the shores of a lake bounded by mountains.
Some of the finest of van Huysum's fruit and flower pieces have been in English private collections: those of 1723 in the earl of Ellesmere's gallery, others of 1730-1732 in the collections of Hope and Ashburton. One of the best examples is now in the National Gallery, London (1736-1737). No public museum has finer and more numerous specimens than the Louvre, which boasts of four landscapes and six panels with still life; then come Berlin and Amsterdam with four fruit and flower pieces; then St Petersburg, Munich, Hanover, Dresden, the Hague, Brunswick, Vienna, Carlsruhe, Boston and Copenhagen.