Japanese painter and sculptor Tsuruzo Ishii was the son of Teiko Ishii, who was also a painter of note. His older brother Hakutei Ishii was a well-known artist, working mostly as a painter and lithographer. When he was 12-years-old, Tsuruzo’s father died and he was adopted by a relative, who was a farmer in Funabashi. Ishii returned to his home in 1905, where he studied painting and sculpture at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, becoming well-known in Japan for his paintings and sculptures. To get relief from a lung disease he started to climb Japanese mountains and was inspired by their beauty. He continued his studies and won the first prize at the 5th Bunten Exhibition in 1912 for his "Arakawa bamboo". In 1915 he was recommended for the Japanese Art Academy and won further prizes for his watercolors at Nika Exhibitions.
After his marriage in 1919 Ishii first moved to the Tabata and subsequently to the Itabashi districts of Tokyo. Ishii then became a member of the Japan Watercolor Society and the Japanese Sōsaku Hanga (creative prints) Society. In 1924, he started to hold annual sculpturing workshops at Ueda, which continued until 1970. Ishii created several woodblock illustrations for novels and newspapers. In 1937 he also became a lecturer at the Nagano Art Research Association. Tsuruzo Ishii was a founding member of the Nihon Hanga Kyôkai, and its president for 30 years, beginning in 1939. In 1944, he became a professor of sculpture in Tokyo until his retirement in 1959.