Julius A. Stewart was born in Philadelphia, but at the age of 10 he moved permanently to Paris with his family. Through his father William Hood Stewart, a wealthy patron of Spanish and French artists, he became acquainted with leading figures in the art world. His father's collection was extremely strong in contemporary Spanish art, particularly in examples of the work of the painters Mariano Fortuny, Eduardo Zamacrois, and Raimundo de Madrazo. Stewart studied at various times with Zamacrois, Madrazo and Jean-Léon Gérôme, and inspired by their example developed a colorful academic realist style. His oeuvre also includes nudes, genre scenes, and views of Venice. Stewart exhibited at the Paris Salon and at major international expositions, where he won many awards and prizes. Stewart received the French Legion of Honor in 1895. After 1900, Stewart rarely exhibited his art.
"Reclining Nude By an Oriental Screen" dates from about 1900. After 1890, Stewart was devoted to painting the nude in indoor as well as outdoor settings. It was from this time forward that he also began to prefer creating compositions focusing on a single woman in an elegant interior. The woman pictured here appears to be a woman known as Juliette V., who was one of Stewart's favorite models as well as his mistress (Julius LeBlanc Stewart: American Painter of the Belle Époque [New York: Vance Jordan Fine Art Inc., 1998], p. 59).
Stewart's approach to the nude remained formal and academic in both his paintings of figures posed decorously in the woods or on couches before decorative backdrops. In turn, they always appear to be in perfect harmony with their surroundings. According to Bailey Van Hook, Stewart often exhibited [his nudes] as studies and they have the character of academes in their obviously posed and artificial positions ("The Genre Paintings of Julius L. Stewart: A Myriad of Influences", unpublished paper, for Dr. H. Barbara Weinberg, City University Graduate Center, 1981, p. 28).