Throughout the period that Diebenkorn was painting both abstractly and figuratively, he made literally thousands of drawings including landscape and still life studies but primarily drawings of human figures, generally women who are frequently nude or semi-nude. Many of these works were done quickly as exercises in drawing sessions with other artists, but this beautiful portrait of his wife Phyllis was carefully rendered with an unusually tender and pensive quality. And it shows Diebenkorn's facility for combining different drawing media, with its delicate mixture of charcoal, chalk, and ink.
He chose to depict his wife in an unusual head-on pose, so that she is seen very compactly and symmetrically. Such a pose requires of the artist a sure control of foreshortening and perspective. It also reminds us distantly of ancient Egyptian statues of seated nobles, done with strict symmetry and eyes straight ahead, so that there is an underlying sense here of classical dignity.