Jan Brueghel was born in a family of Flemish painters in Brussels. He was the second son of Pieter Brueghel The Elder (1525-1569), who was a major landscape artist. Jan had been given several nicknames, called "Velvet", "Flower" and "Paradise" Brueghel - the nicknames were to some extent an effort to distinguish between members of the same family. His father was often called the "Peasant" Brueghel and Jan's elder brother, Pieter was called "Hell Brueghel" because he exploited the growing market for pictures of hell-fire and demons. Brueghel attended school in Antwerp where he was a pupil of Pieter Goctkind and probably also of Gillis van Coninxloo during the years of 1578-1584.
He also studied watercolour painting with his grandmother, Mayken Verhulst, in Italy in 1589. There he entered the service of Cardinal Borromeo in Rome and Milan in 1595 and 1596. He returned to Antwerp in 1598 and settled and became a member of a painters' guild. He married Isabella de Jode in 1599. They had one daughter and a son, Jan II (1601-1678) who also became a painter. After Isabella died in 1603, he married Catharine van Marienberghe in 1605. With her they had eight children, including the painter Ambrosius (1617-1675). Jan Brueghel 's position in society and among his fellow artists was assured during his lifetime: he solidified the family reputation established by his famous father, and his works were very influential.
His flower paintings are perhaps his most well known, though he began painting flowers only toward the end of his career. By the time Brueghel began painting, "Turkish" flowers such as tulips and hyacinths had appeared in Europe, as well as American plants such as marigolds, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. Brueghel's reputation as a master at painting flowers is notable because of the newness of the genre, and he was proud of his mastery of minute detail. Most of his still lifes date from 1610-21. His bouquets all have a sure touch in terms of composition. His juxtaposition of flowers of all seasons in the same picture is less a botanical curiosity than a suggestion of the "Paradise" or "Eden" quality added to the very idea of such beauty and fullness of nature. His landscapes, which he painted all his life, and which show the influences he encountered on his trip to Italy, also take on certain characteristics of his father's work, which he obviously studied. He collaborated with many of his contemporaries - most famously with Rubens, who wrote his epitaph. Two of his most famous works, collaborated with Rubens, are "Madonna in a Wreath of Flowers" (Brueghel painted the wreath), and "Paradise", also called "Adam and Eve in the Garden". His style was perpetuated by his sons Jan Brueghel II (1601-78) and Ambrosius Brueghel (1617-75), whose sons then carried on the tradition into the 18th century. Jan Brueghel died in Antwerp of cholera in 1625.