As his family were retainers of the Tayasu Family of descendants of the eighth Tokugawa shōgun, Bunchō inherited samurai status and received a stipend to meet the responsibilities this entailed.
In his youth he began studying the painting techniques of the Kanō school under Katō Bunrei (1706-1782).
After Bunrei's death, Bunchō worked with masters of other schools, such as the literati painter Kitayama Kangen (1767-1801), and developed a wide stylistic range that included many Chinese, Japanese and European idioms.
He rose to particular prominence as the retainer of Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759-1829), genetic son of the Tayasu who was adopted into the Matsudaira family before becoming chief senior councilor of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1787. Bunchō is best known for his idealized landscapes in the literati style (Nanga or Bunjinga).
Bunchō was an extremely eclectic artist, painting idealized Chinese landscapes, actual Japanese sites, and poetically-inspired traditional scenery. He also painted portraits of his contemporaries (such as Ono Ranzan and Kimura Kenkadō), as well as imagined images of such Chinese literati heroes as Su Shi and Tao Yuanming.