Julius LeBlanc Stewart was born in Philadelphia, and at the age of ten moved to Paris with his family. Here, Stewart lived for the rest of his life, and established a successful career as a portrait painter of elite American and French society. He exhibited his paintings at the famous Paris Salon from 1878 to 1895.
During his career, several wealthy expatriate Americans living in Paris commissioned Stewart to paint grand scale portraits of their friends and families. A friend of the artist, James Gordon Bennett was the publisher of the New York and Paris Herald, and was a notorious playboy who enjoyed extravagant and leisurely activities, including yachting. Stewart painted several group portraits of Bennett before executing his uncommissioned work, On the Yacht "Namouna," Venice. Using Bennett's yacht "Namouna" as a backdrop, Stewart freely reveals the loose morals that persisted among the younger generation of rich Americans who never suffered the hard work of earning the fortunes inherited from their forbearers. In this scene, Stewart creates an atmosphere of sexual arousal occurring between the subjects; away at sea and isolated, social pretensions and prudery are dropped during this warm and sunny afternoon of frivolity.
"Namouna" was the world's largest and most luxurious private yacht when Bennett had it commissioned to be built in 1882. Measuring 226 feet in length, McKim, Mead and White designed the interior, while Louis C. Tiffany executed the mantelpiece mosaics and glass features.
Julius L. Stewart (American, 1855-1919)
On the Yacht "Namouna," Venice, 1890
Oil on canvas, 56 x 77 in.
The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1965.32
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
Matted size: 11 x 14 in.
Image size: 6 x 10 in.