Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Artworks and Masters – Xia Gui (夏珪 / Hsia Kuei)

 

A Brief Biography of Xia Gui (夏珪 / Hsia Kuei)

Just as his contemporary Ma Yuan, Xia Gui had an honorable reputation during his lifetime. There is basically no information about his life; neither where he was born, nor how he was educated, but one can assume that he lived in the capital Hangzhou and served as an official under Emperor Ninzong (宁宗; 1168–1224) in the Imperial Painting Academy.  In the middle of the 12th century, landscape painters went away from big-scaled, highly complex pictures and produced smaller, more intimate works. Xia Gui belonged to those Southern Song Dynasty painters who were responsible for a new method of depicting landscapes. Nature was not an accumulation of analyzable structures anymore, but a visual experience which should evoke emotions inside the viewer. Xia Gui’s works show a strong influence from painter Li Tang, a painter from the 11th century, who was famous among the Southern Song painters and often copied.  Just as Li Tang before, Xia’s strength laid in the depiction of nature scenes. Most of his surviving works are album leaves, in which he freed the composition of unnecessary elements and simplified the difficult structures.

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Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Artworks and Masters – Ni Zan (倪瓒 / Ni Tsan): Painter of the Yuan Dynasty

 

The Life and Times of Ni Zan (倪瓒 / Ni Tsan)

When Ni Zan (1301–1374) was born at the beginning of the 14th century, the Mongol rulers had been occupying the Chinese throne for about twenty years. Being suspicious about Chinese officials, they rather employed their own people for high-ranking positions. Many Chinese either refused to serve under the foreign rulers or wouldn’t even get the chance to do so. As for Ni Zan, the latter was the case. He was born into a wealthy family and enjoyed an extensive Confucian education, but never had the opportunity to get a position at court. Contemporary writings describe him as being arrogant, eccentric and over-sensitive, with constant fear of germs and the like. How much of this is true and how much made up rests unknown. In the 1340s, when a disastrous flood caused famines and the Mongol rulers imposed oppressive taxes, Ni Zan gave up his possessions to live on a houseboat and dedicate himself to painting.

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