Hashimoto Chikanobu lived during the Meiji era, the period when Japan went through a rapid modernization by adapting Western values and technologies including photography which soon replaced ukiyo-e as the means of depicting current events. He was one of the ukiyo-e artists who struggled to preserve the fading traditional culture of Japan.
Chikanobu was born into a samurai family in Echigo province. He first studied with the great ukiyo-e masters Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Utagawa Toyokuni III, or Kunisada, and later with Toyohara Kunichika. He was one of the most prominent among the latter's students.
Chikanobu's prints cover a variety of subjects. Early in his career he created several landscape print series including "From the Famous Places of Edo". When the Kagoshima uprising erupted, he designed several war prints. Customs and events of the royal family were one of his favourite subjects. He also designed some interesting print series based on mythologies and legends.
But he is believed to have most concentrated on beauty and court lady subjects. His best known print series probably is "Chiyoda no O-oku", or "Court Ladies of the Chiyoda Palace", which shows court life in the palace during the Tokugawa shogunate. This, along with his many other works, is a series of triptychs. Also famous is his series of beauty prints, "Shin Bijin", or "True Beauties", depicting Japanese ladies dressed in traditional kimono. While most of his beauty prints feature women in kimono, some of his works do depict ladies in Western clothing, reflecting the radically changing trend in Japanese society during his lifetime
Although his early works closely followed the traditional style of ukiyo-e, Chikanobu, like other great ukiyo-e artists, later developed and established his own style, making his works distinctive from those of other artists.