Eisen was born in Edo into the Ikeda family, the son of a Kanô-school painter. He studied with Kanô Hakkeisai, from whom he took the name Keisai, and later he had some as yet unconfirmed connection with Kikugawa Eizan, either as a pupil or acquaintance. Scholars also mention the influence of Katsushika Hokusai upon the young Eisen, as well as that of Yanagawa Shigenobu I (1787-1832).
Eisen was one of several writers and artists who edited and expanded upon the Ukiyo-e ruiko ("History of Prints of the Floating World"), the most informative 18th-19th century source of information on the lives of ukiyo-e artists. Eisen's version (circa 1833) was called the Zoku ukiyo-e ruikô ("Supplement to the History of Prints of the Floating World"), known also as the Mumeiô zuihitsu ("Essays by a Nameless Old Man"). He described himself as a hard-drinking, rather dissolute artist. In the 1830s, he ran a brothel called the Wakatakeya in Nezu, though it soon burnt down.