Early in life Tanomura planned to become a Confucian scholar, but he was also interested in painting, which he first studied under a local artist. Later he went to Edo (now Tokyo), where he became a pupil of the bunjin-ga painter Tani Bunchō. The bunjin-ga (“literati painting”) style, also called Nan-ga, had originated in southern China and had a scholarly and literary base.
Tanomura returned for a while to his home district, where there had been a series of agrarian uprisings. After repeated futile attempts to persuade the local lord to make reforms, he decided to retire and concentrate on painting. He came to develop his own style, using gentle strokes and frequently achieving a somewhat melancholic effect. He painted mainly flowers, birds, and landscapes, and he also wrote numerous outstanding works on the Nan-ga school, of which Sanchūjin jōzetsu (“The Recluse’s Tattle”) is the best known. His artwork that is concentrated on landscapes is also recorded to be layered.