Koyama was born in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture. In 1871, he moved to Tokyo, and studies under Togai Kawakami at his private art school. In 1874, he became a drawing master at the Army Officer Training Academy. When the Technical Art School (Kobu Bijutsu Gakko) was founded as the first government-established art school in 1876, he resigned from the master ship and entered it. The following year, he became an assistant teacher at the school and studied under Antonio Fontanesi, a professor at the school and a painter invited from Italy. However, when Fontanesi went back to his own country due to illness, Koyama was dissatisfied with his successor and resigned from the school. He participated in the foundation of the Meiji Fine Arts Society (Maiji Bijutsu-kai) which was the first Western art group in Japan and resisted the tendency to reject Western art which characterized Ernest Fenollosa, Tenshin Okakura, and others. He established the private art school, Fudosha, and dealt with developing guidance. The role that Koyama achieved established a foundation for the flourishing of Western art and particularly an aspect of its education. He died in Tokyo.
Compositions where extreme close-up foreground objects contrast directly with the background – the midground being eliminated – had been used experimentally in the western-style painting of the Edo Era. From this painting one can sense that, while retracing the footsteps of his Edo-period predecessors, the artist was pursuing researches into the western style of painting.