Born and lived in Edo, Zeshin was the son of a sculptor. As a child, he apprenticed to a lacquer craftsman and became a court painter in 1890. He is considered to be the greatest lacquerer of the 19th century. Particularly skilful in urushi-e, he produced charming, delicate works. Although he used many revolutionary elements in his work, both technically and creatively, Zeshin's works were always, on the whole, very traditional. In the brand-new medium of lacquer painting, he would paint traditional subjects like birds and flowers, insects, waterfalls and dragons.