According to the RKD he learned to paint from Theodoor Rombouts, whose pupil he became in 1632. He was captain of the schutterij and painted battle scenes as befit his occupation, and was still painting in Antwerp in 1660. His own pupil later was Pieter Hofman (bentname Janitzer for Janissary). He is known for landscapes with soldiers and horsemen. His son Nicolaas II also became a painter.
He was friends with Jan Philips van Thielen, who had also been a pupil of Rombouts, and later Van Eyck was godfather to at least one of his nine children.