Much of Pollock’s early work is characterized by a somber palette and congested pictorial space, but Stenographic Figure is bright and airy. Reflecting, perhaps, his new relationship with painter Lee Krasner, it is often read as a reclining female whose head in profile is at the upper left, whose arms and hands are opened wide over a torso that stretches across the middle of the canvas, and whose legs and paw-like feet are spread across the right edge. Another possible interpretation is that there is an upright figure near the right edge of the canvas and another just left of center. To finish the painting, Pollock covered the surface with a layer of scratchy, calligraphic lines.
When Stenographic Figure was first shown in 1943, at the Spring Salon for Young Artists held by Peggy Guggenheim at her gallery Art of This Century, it garnered praise from, among others, Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, who described it as “the most interesting work I’ve seen so far in America.”
Gallery label from Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934-1954, November 22, 2015–May 1, 2016.