A cerebral artist who struggled with the issue of abstraction versus representation, Diebenkorn was educated at Stanford University, where he studied art, music, and literature. He later studied with Hans Hoffman at the University of California-Berkeley before traveling to New York where he fell under the sway of Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes. By the 1950s, Diebenkorn was recognized as the leading West Coast abstract painter, but he turned to figurative art under the influence of his friend and colleague David Park at the California School of Art. Along with Elmer Bischoff, they led the Bay Area Figurative School that went against the currents of abstraction during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"Interior of a Doorway" presents a view from within Diebenkorn's studio, looking out onto a sunlit street with Berkely hills in the distance. While many of his interior scenes are filled with a single figure seated in a chair, here we encounter only an empty chair, heightening the elegiac mood of this work. Diebenkorn carefully constructed this interior through rectangular expanses of color purged of detail, revealing his debt to Matisse. An encounter with Matisse's work in Russia a few years later pushed Diebenkorn back towards abstraction, leading to the defining paintings of his career, such as the enormous "Ocean Park" series.