Xia Gui (夏珪, fl. 1180–1230), courtesy name Yuyu (禹玉), was a representative painter of the Southern Song (1127–1279) court. He is frequently paired with another renowned member of the painting academy, Ma Yuan (馬遠, ca. 1160–1225), as a cofounder of the Ma-Xia school. Due to the compositional focus of their landscape paintings often being in one part of their work, they have been referred to as “One-corner Ma and One-side Xia.”
Xia Gui was a native of Qiantang (modern Hangzhou), capital of the Southern Song. No information exists on Xia’s early artistic training, but most sources agree that he followed the stylistic tradition of an earlier landscapist in the academy, Li Tang (李唐, ca. 1050–1130). During the reign of Emperor Ningzong (r. 1195–1224), Xia Gui received the prestigious Golden Belt and was promoted to the rank of Painter-in-Attendance. His most familiar style involves creating a composition in which only a small part of the scenery is revealed, the rest being concealed in mist. In addition to his innovative composition, his brushwork was also rich and varied, especially in the use of energetic ax-cut texture strokes. Xia Gui is ranked along with Li Tang, Ma Yuan and Liu Songnian (劉松年, ca. 1155–1218) as one of the Four Masters of the Southern Song.