From about 1946-50 Pollock's work was effectively abstract, as in the Tate Gallery's 'Summertime' of 1948. In 1951, however, his art changed and he began to paint predominantly black pictures in which symbolic figurative imagery reappears, akin to that of his early works such as 'Birth'. In 'Number 14' a horizontal form which might be an animal or a human figure dominates the upper centre right of the canvas. At the right-hand end appears what might be a grotesque head on a stalk-like body and at the other end there appears to be a large face looming through the bars of black paint in the upper left-hand corner. There is also a suggestion of another horizontal figure lying beneath the principal one. 'Number 14' is one of a group of Pollock's black paintings all with similar imagery which have been given a Jungian interpretation by the art historian Francis V. O'Connor, a leading authority on Pollock. (It is well known that Pollock underwent psychotherapy with two Jungian practitioners in 1939-40 and 1941). O'Connor identifies the main figure with the artist himself and sees the paintings as being about the artist's relationships; '... they are best understood not in terms of explicit sexual congress ... but in terms of the figure/protagonist/artist's struggle in these works of 1951 to re-establish his sense of, and capacity for, relationship. The overriding drama of all these dark paintings is the eternal struggle to break away from the stranglehold of the mother complex ...' All such interpretations remain highly speculative, but there is no doubt that this painting powerfully evokes a psychological drama all the more disturbing for being ill-defined. A full and extensive discussion of 'Number 14', together with Pollock's 'Birth' [Tate Gallery T03979] and 'Summertime' [Tate Gallery T03977], is in the Tate Gallery Catalogue of Acquisitions 1984-86, pp. 231-251 [and also displayed on the 'full catalogue entry' Web pages for these works].
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.214