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When he was eighteen years old Tomioka Eisen started studying with Kobayashi Eitaku. During this period he started work as a freelance artist, next to his job as a draughtsman at the office of the army general staff. In 1890, when Eitaku died, he started as a full-time independent artist. He was very successful and was paid well by the magazines and publishers he worked for. He was eager to be recognized as a 'real' artist, and he won a silver medal at the first joint Japan Art Institute/Japan Painting Association exhibition, and he became a judge for future exhibitions.