Kanzan is one of the great figures of early Nihonga painting. In 1917 he was appointed an Imperial Household Artist and this privileged status brought him many commissions from the imperial household as well as socially prominent families such as the Maeda. At one point he was supported by Yokohama industrialist Hara Sankei (1868-1939).
As a boy Kanzan took painting lesons from Kano Hogai and Hashimoto Gaho. After entering the first class of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1889 he studied under the Kyoto Shijo-school painter Kose Shoseki. In 1898 Kanzan and his colleagues Yokoyama Taikan (see lot 252), and Hishida Shunsho joined with Okakura Tenshin to found the Japan Art Institute (Nihon Bijutsu-in). In 1903 he was sent to London for two years under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. His own work combined elements of both traditional yamato-e and Kano school styles with traces of Western realism and spatial rendering. He was also a serious student of Chinese painting.