Though his birthplace is unknown, a signed document survives in Utrecht where he is listed as six years old and the son of Simon van Poelenburch, a Catholic canon in Utrecht. He initially trained with Abraham Bloemaert, and his earliest signed paintings are from 1620. He traveled to Rome where he was influenced by Adam Elsheimer and became a founding member of the Bentvueghels. He counted a few cardinals under his patrons, and was called to England by Charles I of England, for whom he made small cabinet pieces. He returned to Utrecht where he later died just a few years after his old teacher Abraham Bloemaert. He painted mostly small landcapes with mythical or religious figures or passages, in a style that would later be evident in some of the works of Claude Lorraine.
^Nicolette C. Sluijter-Seijffert (2006). "The School of Cornelis van Poelenburch". In His Milieu: Essays on Netherlandish Art in Memory of John Michael Montias. Amsterdam University Press. p. 445. ISBN90-5356-933-2.