Watanabe Seitei began training with the artist Kikuchi Yosai at the age of sixteen, followed by a brief period in the studio of the painter and lacquer artist, Shibata Zeshin. Six years later he was adopted by a literary friend of the family, Watanabe Koshi. In 1878 he travelled to the United States and Europe where he received a silver medal for a painting he submitted to the Paris Exposition. He remained in Paris for three years and became the first Nihonga artist to reside in Europe to study Western painting. When he returned from Europe he became well-known for his sensitive kacho-ga (bird and flower) images which utilized Japanese techniques while incorporating some Western sensibilities. Seitei produced also designs for ceramics and cloisonné, most notably in collaboration with the cloisonné artist Namikawa Sosuke. He was a prolific painter and illustrator and throughout his career he received awards for his work, both in Japan and at international expositions. He was a major influence on the next generation of Nihonga artists, including Mizuno Toshikata and Kaburagi Kiyokata.