He was born at Antwerp and studied under Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Lenaert Kroes and Gillis Mostaert. He practiced his art in France, but in 1587, on account of religious persecution, emigrated to Frankenthal and passed his later life in Amsterdam.
Coninxloo ranks as one of the most important Dutch landscape painters of the transition from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century. He exercised a strong influence on Jan Brueghel the Elder, Schonbroeck, Savery, and other Flemish and Dutch landscape painters of the transition period. Coninxloo is considered the founder of a new approach to the painting of forests; while earlier forest landscapes had used woods as backdrops for human activity, van Coninxloo made them a subject, submerging tiny human figures in elaborate compositions of trees in hugely exaggerated scale.
During his stay at Frankenthal from 1588 to 1595, he influenced several better known Dutch landscape-painters collectively referred to as the Frankenthal School.