Imao Keinen was born in Kyoto in 1845, the fifth son of Imao Inosuke.
He first studied Ukiyo-e style with Umegawa Tōkyo, later he became a pupil of Suzuki Hyakunen, studying painting and calligraphy. He also studied other styles than those of his masters, which resulted in an eclectic style. He combined his part-time study and work in his father’s business with painting in the evenings. In 1868, after the family business was lost in the upheaval marking the end of the Tokugawa period, he began his own studio. At this time Nanga painting was at its summit, and many artists turned to Nanga, but Keinen remained true to his own style. At the same time he worked as a design advisor for a textile company, to make a living.
In 1888 he became professor at the Kyoto Prefectural School of Painting. Keinen was a frequent exhibitor and prize-winner at many shows and exhibitions in Japan and in Paris and an important figure in Kyoto art circles. In 1904 he became a member of the Art Committee of the Imperial Household, and in 1907 a juror for the first Bunten. In 1919 he became a member of the Imperial Art Academy. In this period of his life he was probably the most famous painter of his time. His recurring themes are flowers, birds and landscapes. He refrained from figure-painting.
He had many puplis, some of the best known are his son Imao Keishō (1902-1993), Konoshima Ōkoku (1877-1938), Ueda Banshū, Kobayashi Gokyō and Shiba Kaisen. He died in 1924.
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Araki, Tsune (ed), Dai Nihon shôga meika taikan, Tokyo 1975 (1934), p.2049
Morioka, Michiyo and Paul Berry, Modern Masters of Kyoto, Seattle 1999, pp. 122-125
Roberts, Laurance P., A Dictionary of Japanese artists, New York, 1976, p. 53