Steenwyck was born in Delft, his birth year is a rough estimate based on the appearance his first painting in 1633. He was the brother of Pieter Steenwijck, also a still-life painter, whose father Evert sent them to learn painting from their uncle David Bailly in Leiden.
Harmen became active as a painter in Leiden between 1628 and 1633. He moved back to Delft from 1633 to 1656. In 1654-1655 he made a trip to the Dutch East Indies. He died in Leiden. Steenwijck is best known for his visual sermon in the painting An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life at the National Gallery, London.