Nihonga - literally meaning Japanese painting - is a term and concept that was created in response to the widespread influence of Western painting (or "seiyoga"), which first made its way to Japan during the Meiji era (beginning 1868). Prior to that, the styles of Japanese painting were divided into disparate indigenous schools/ styles of art - the Kano-ha, the Maruyama Shijo-ha, and perhaps most influential to Nihonga -Yamato-e and Tosa-ha.

After the arrival of Western painting to Japan during the Meiji era, the techniques of the various indigenous schools were blended and fused together along with various elements of Western painting, including perspective techniques, shading, and motif variety - creating what we now know today as Nihonga. In this way, the history of Nihonga- and Japanese art as a whole - is one of continuous incorporation, evolution, and refinement.

Today, the word "Nihonga" (日本画) - literally meaning Japanese painting - can be used to identify both traditional Japanese painting, and new styles of work that incorporate Western painting methods while carrying on the classical techniques of Japanese art forms. Although Nihonga does not refer to any single defined style, the unifying elements generally include the practice of painting on substrates such as wood, hemp, silk, and paper, and painting with coloring materials such as mineral pigments and other natural colorants that are bound with organic gelatin known as nikawa-eki.