Tang Dai was an important painter under the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors (1661–1723 and 1735–1796). The inscription on this fan indicates that he painted it on the occasion of a friend's departure for a post in a distant city. The style and composition of his painting allude to the work of several of the major literati artists of much earlier periods, while some of his shading techniques appear to be influenced by European Jesuit priest-artists who worked in the imperial atelier. This diversity of sources is typical of Qing painting, which often created something new by building on tradition.
The painting in light colors and ink on slightly iridescent, mica-coated paper shows an autumn landscape, identified as such with a middle-ground shore sloping down to a lake. A river runs out of a forested valley and enters the lake in front of four buildings of a gentleman's country villa. A group of large rocks to the left of the buildings screens a path leading to an arched stone bridge. On the near shore is another, detached building of the villa, seen through a cleft among the trees on the rocky shore. A large tree-covered mountain rises at the right- center of the composition, flanked by lower ranges and distant blue peaks. The group of pines to the right of the villa's buildings, which evoke the style of the Yuan dynasty painter Wang Meng (ca. 1309-1385), the rounded hillocks and dotted foliage in the style of the 10th century master Ju Ran, and other elements of the painting's style place it firmly within the Orthodox tradition of Tang Dai's teacher, Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715). The sense of light and dark in the painting is probably a reflection of Tang Dai's own interest in European painting, practiced at the Qing court by Jesuit missionaries. Condition: The painting has been removed from the fan armature and mounted in Chinese style in a heavy paper folder. The fold marks are clearly visible, with stains at each of the outward folds. There are minor red stains or foxing on the inside of the paper folder opposite the fan.