Like Shitao (1642-1707), Bada Shanren (1626-1705) was also a descendant of the Ming imperial family and a remnant subject who adhered to the Ming regime. He became a monk after the collapse of the Ming, before resuming secular life and earning a living as an artist.
Bada Shanren's painting is characterised by his minimalistic, round, wet, translucent and eccentric brushwork; his composition is idiosyncratically light, calm, free yet neat. In Stag and Pine, this distinctive brushwork can be seen in the expressive ink dots applied liberally to depict branches, moss and grassland. Composed to be viewed in a circular motion, the painting guides the eye of the viewer from the focal point - the stag's eyes - to the antlers pointing upwards at the pine branches, and downwards again with the pine needles. The gentle curve of the stag's body mirrors the slightly bent branch, resulting in a composition that is harmonious and full of grace.
Pine trees, cranes and deer are recurring subject matters in Bada Shanren's late works. In addition to being symbols of longevity, they also express the aging artist's wish to return to nature. In contrast to the dignified and solitary look often seen his early work, the facial expressions of his later subjects are more peaceful, their eyes less mocking, reflecting a tranquil state of mind. Stag and Pine is undated and signed with 'Bada Shanren xie' (draw) rather than 'Bada Shanren hua' (paint). Considering the fact that he changed his signature from hua to xie after 1695, and by referring to the deer painting of 1700 and the pine painting of 1701 in the Shanghai Museum, it is believed that this painting was created between 1696 and 1701.
Zhang Daqian's inscription is dedicated to Zhang Jiazhu (Chang Chia-chu), a renowned businessman and diplomat from the eminent Zhang family in the Shanghai area, whose siblings included Zhang Gongquan and Zhang Youyi. He was a close friend of the poet Xu Zhimo's and a co-founder of the Crescent Moon Society with Xu and Hu Shi. Part of Zhang Jiazhu's collection of Chinese Modern Paintings was sold with Christie's Hong Kong on 29 May 2012.