Ma Quan was born in Qingxu, Shanxi Province, in 1938. He graduated from the National Painting Department of the Central Art Academy in 1962. In the following years, he perfected his technique in the Beijing Painting Academy. He has spent most of his professional life in various academies in Beijing.
Ma specializes in figurative painting in the "meticulous" 工笔 gongbi-style. He collaborated with Hua Yu.