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Eminent Southern-Song Dynasty Painter Ma Yuan
November 02, 2003

PHOTO CAPTION – “Two Egrets on a Snowy Beach” by Ma Yuan. Copyright: National Palace Museum

Mr. Ma Yuan earned a high reputation in Chinese history for painting. Together with Li Tang, Liu Songnian and Xia Gui they were considered the Four Great Painters during the Southern-Song Dynasty.

Ma achieved distinction in his landscape painting and established a new style. He shared honor with Xia Gui, and together they were called “Ma-Xia.”

Ma was born in Yongji, Shanxi Province and grew up in Hangzhou City. His birth date, death date and the details of his career have been lost. He was an official of the Imperial Painting Academy and often painted for two Emperors, Guang and Ning. (Between approximately 1190 and 1224 A. D.)

Ma Yuan’s great grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle, brother and son were all painters of the Imperial Painting Academy. They were well known for painting flowers, birds, people and images of Buddha.

Ma Yuan was born into a drawing aristocratic family and received a solid educational foundation from family elders. He studied painting ever since childhood. He inherited family techniques and techniques from the great painter Li Tang, before finally forming his unique style.

Ma Yuan’s outstanding achievements were in painting scenery, which he learned from Li Tang. Ma often used straight and firm lines, and sometimes painted with the “axe cutting” technique, which is a characteristic of scenery painted during the Southern-Song Dynasty.

Ma Yuan would draw just a corner or half of the scenery to express vast space. Because of this he earned the name “Ma One Corner” to praise his unique style. Some examples of this style include a cliff so deep that one could not see its end, a faraway low mountain, and a single fishing boat in a vast open space giving the feeling of an empty yet close view.

Ma Yuan’s paintings of people, flowers and birds were closely united with the scenery. He emphasized portraying the manner and thoughts of the people.

It was recorded that Ma Yuan had a large quantity of paintings, but many were lost. The National Palace Museum in Taiwan still has several of his paintings such as “Dancing Chart,” “Water Chart,” “Plum Stone Brook,” “Far Sight at Cliff,” and “Listening to the Autumn at the High Tower.”

A small amount of his work is scattered throughout the world in museums or owned by private collectors.

(Original article from Shi Hui Net)

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