Ma Yuan (馬遠; Mǎ Yuǎn; c. 1160–65 – 1225) was an influential Chinese landscape painter of the Song dynasty.

His works, together with that of Xia Gui (夏珪), formed the basis of the Ma-Xia School of painting, and are considered among the finest from the period.

His paintings has inspired both Chinese artists of the Zhe School, as well as the great early Japanese painters Shūbun and Sesshū.

Ma-Yuan-Song-Dynasty-White-rose
Ma Yuan – White Rose – between 1127 and 1279‎ – ink and watercolor on silk

Ma Yuan was born in Qiantang (now Hangzhou, Zhejiang) into a family of painters.

Angler on a Wintry Lake, by Ma Yuan, 1195
Close-up detail of Song Dynasty Chinese painter Ma Yuan’s Angler on a Wintry Lake, featuring the oldest known depiction of a fishing reel.

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His great grandfather Ma Fen served as painter in attendance at the Northern Song court in early 12th century, and both his grandfather Ma Xingzu and his father Ma Shirong held the same position at the Southern Song court in Hangzhou.

Attributed to Ma Yuan - Composing Poetry on a Spring Outing
Composing Poetry on a Spring Outing, attributed to Ma Yuan, Southern Song Dynasty, Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 29.54 x 301.63 cm, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

At some point after 1189, Ma Yuan received the same position under Emperor Guangzong. He evidently enjoyed a high reputation at the court and was a favorite of Emperor Ningzong (who wrote several poems inspired by Ma Yuan’s paintings); but nothing more is known about his life. He died in 1225.

Attributed-to-Ma-Yuan---GENTLEMAN-VIEWING-THE-MOON
Attributed to Ma Yuan. GENTLEMAN VIEWING THE MOON. 1200/1300

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His son, Ma Lin, who rose to the rank of painter-in-waiting, was the last painter in the family.

Immortal Riding a Dragon
In this painting, an adept (xian) flies through the air on the back of a dragon. At the lower right, a demon thrall holds his master’s dragoon-headed staff. The scene takes place against a background of clouds, from which the dragon has just emerged. The transcendent gazes into space with an intense, knowing expression. Southern Song Dynasty, early 13th century. hanging scroll; ink and light colors on silk

Although a very versatile painter, Ma is known today primarily for his landscape scrolls. His technique, like that of many contemporaries, was at first inspired by Li Tang. Eventually Ma developed a personal style, with marked decorative elements (“pine trees […] strong as if they were made of iron wire”, as described in a contemporary source).

Landscape attributed to Ma Yuan
Landscape attributed to Ma Yuan, MOA Museum of Art, Itami, Shizuoka, Japan. Southern Song (1127-1279)

A characteristic feature of many paintings is the so-called “one-corner” composition, in which the actual subjects of the painting are pushed to a corner or a side, leaving the other part of the painting more or less empty. [wikipedia]

Ma-Yuan---Dancing-and-Singing--Peasants-Returning-from-Work---Detail-1
Dancing and Singing (Peasants Returning from Work) (detail). 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma-Yuan---Dancing-and-Singing--Peasants-Returning-from-Work---Detail-2
Dancing and Singing (Peasants Returning from Work) (detail). 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma Yuan - Dancing and Singing- Peasants Returning from Work - Detail 3
Dancing and Singing (Peasants Returning from Work) (detail). 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma-Yuan---Dancing-and-Singing--Peasants-Returning-from-Work
Dancing and Singing(Peasants Returning from Work). 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma Yuan - Scholar by a Waterfall
Scholar by a Waterfall, Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279), late 12th–early 13th century. Ma Yuan (Chinese, active ca. 1190–1225) Album leaf: ink and color on silk; 9 7/8 x 10 1/4 in. (25.1 x 26 cm) Signed: “Servitor, Ma Yuan”

 

Ma Yuan - Water Album - Clouds Rising from the Green Sea
Clouds Rising from the Green Sea, from a series of paintings of water. 1160-1225. ink on silk – 水圖卷﹝局部
Ma Yuan - Water Album - Ten Thousand Riplets on the Yangzi
Ten Thousand Riplets on the Yangzi, from a series of paintings of water. 水圖卷﹝局部. 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma Yuan - Water Album - The Waving Surface of the Autumn Flood
The Waving Surface of the Autumn Flood, from a series of paintings of water. 水圖卷﹝局部. 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma Yuan - Water Album - The Yellow River Breaches its Course
The Yellow River Breaches its Course, from a series of paintings of water. 水圖卷﹝局部. 1160-1225. ink on silk
Ma Yuan Walking on Path in Spring
Walking on Path in Spring by Ma Yuan (马远 c.1190 – 1279年)), a Chinese painter of the Song Dynasty. [宋] 马远 山径春行图 – 绢本淡设色.
Ma Yuan-Banquet by Lantern Light (large)
Banquet by Lantern Light – hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 111.9 x 53.5 cm. Located at the National Palace Museum, Taibei. The poem at the top was either written by Emperor Ningzong (寧宗) or Empress Yang to celebrate a banquet. 华灯侍宴图 – 立轴 绢本 淡设色

 

Ma-Yuan-Banquet-by-Lantern-Light-(detail)
Banquet by Lantern Light – hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 111.9 x 53.5 cm. Located at the National Palace Museum, Taibei. The poem at the top was either written by Emperor Ningzong (寧宗) or Empress Yang to celebrate a banquet. circa 1198-1201年
Ma Yuan-Confucius
Confucius (孔丘圖), ink and color on silk. 27.7 cm. high x 23.3 cm. wide. Located in the Palace Museum, Beijing (北京 故宫博物院). 12th century, Southern Song Dynasty

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Ma Yüan - Handscroll- The Four Sages of Shangshan
Handscroll: The Four Sages of Shangshan.
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