Aart van der Neer the Elder was the father of Eglon Hendrick and Johannes van der Neer. He may have studied with the Camphuysen brothers. As a young man he was a 'major' or inspector for a certain Van Arkel in Gorkum. He married Lysbeth Govers, with whom he had six children. He went to Amsterdam before 1640. He was an innkeeper in 1659. He ran into financial difficulty in 1659, and an inventory of his home mentions 'several bad paintings on the walls'. He recovered his situation somewhat by 1663, having paid his debts. Nevertheless, by this time both his wife and one son had died, and his other children had left. He died in dire poverty. Another painter named Aernout van der Neer of Amsterdam became a citizen of Gouda in 1685 and married a Maria van Kastelyn in 1692.
Aart van der Neer excelled above all in painting night scenes and he succeeded in rendering their poetry with an extraordinary power. He earned a distinct place in the Dutch School through his treatment of moonlight, sunsets, and fires. He rendered his winter landscapes in a delicate light. It is almost certain that Van der Neer was little appreciated by art lovers in his time. However, the fact that Cuyp painted figures in his paintings may be seen as an indication of his having had some esteem among contemporary artists.