Shibata Zeshin was born in Edo, (now Tokyo) in 1807. He entered the workshop of a lacquer craftsman at the age of eleven and later, he studied painting under Suzuki Nanrei and Okamoto Toyohiko.
Shibata worked as a painter, lacquerer and ukiyo-e printmaker, but the emphasis of his artistic production was on painted screens and lacquerware utensils, such as cups, boxes, panels and screens. He invented and introduced several new techniques in lacquering. Shibata used subjects from nature or Japanese legends and history.
He participated as an official representative of Japan in the International exhibitions in Vienna in 1875 and in Philadelphia in 1876. He was a member of the Imperial Art Academy and in 1890, he was appointed as a member of the Art Committee of the Imperial Household.