Sundays with Clyfford Still: Clyff’s writing analyzed (1)

Welcome to Sundays with Clyfford Still.   I’m your host, M.K.  Hajdin.

This is post 1 of a series.  Click here to read them all.

All this week here at Exiled Star(dust) we’ve been doing handwriting analysis, and I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I’ve finally located a handwriting sample of Clyfford Still.  Now we can end the week with a bang.

Our sample is a letter written by Still to Jackson Pollock, and comes to us courtesy of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Clyfford Still letter to Jackson Pollock page 1

Clyfford Still letter to Jackson Pollock page 1

Letter from Clyfford Still to Jackson Pollock, page 2

Letter from Clyfford Still to Jackson Pollock, page 2

The text of the letter reads:

October 29/53

Dear Jack

Went up to Janis’ gallery with Barney the other day and took the liberty of pushing into the office to see some of the paintings you did this summer.

What each work said, what its position, what each achieved, you must know.  But above all these details and intentions the great thing, to me, came through.

It was that here a man had been at work, at the profoundest work a man can do, facing up to what he is and aspires to.

(page 2)

I left the room with the gratitude and renewal of courage that always comes at such moments.  This is just my way of saying thanks, and the hope that some of my work has brought some of the same to you.

Clyff Still

48 Cooper Sq.


Analysis of the writing:

The first impression I get from the writing is of a keen, inquisitive mind.   The writing is very elongated in the upper and lower zones and the middle zone is shrunk almost to nothing.  Here’s a diagram of the zones as they are used in handwriting analysis:

Handwriting zones

The middle zone has to do with our social selves, and the people around us.  Still’s middle zone suggests he disliked socializing generally and would only do so if it were truly necessary.  He was not the kind of person who would join others just to avoid being alone, or tolerate idle chatter. He did not allow himself to be dictated to by other people.    A small middle zone also shows the ability to concentrate.  He could shut out others completely and focus entirely on his work.

Clyfford Still's lower loops show frustration

Lower loops showing frustration

The lower zone is longest.  It has to do with physical and material things, our bodies, sex, and the subconscious.   The long simplified loops show a strong interest here, but the loops either don’t close at all or close below the baseline, which shows  frustration or denial.  Also they’re turned in the opposite direction of the usual loop, which shows an independent approach to the subject.

The upper zone is nearly as long as the lower zone and is much much larger than the middle zone.   This zone has to do with the imagination, intellect and spirit.  Here we find long, closed loops which indicate both interest and fulfillment in these areas of life.

Clyfford Still's upper loops

Upper loops show imagination

Margins are even and narrow,  there are large spaces between words :  this was a man who would push into other people’s spaces if he felt the need, but required much space for himself.

The baseline is mostly even,  showing good self-control.

Clyfford Still's leading strokes

Letters begin with leading strokes



Long beginning strokes on some letters indicate procrastination.  Clyff could take a while to get started, but once going could keep it up for a long time.



Speed and flow are both very high, suggesting a quick thinker and eloquent communicator with a great deal of energy, both mental and physical.

Big loops on the t-bar stems show combativeness – ready for an argument or fight.  The big loop on the d shows a sensitivity to criticism.

The long, firm, energetic t-bar crossings show a strong will and assertiveness.

Clyfford Still's long T-bars

Long T-bars show confidence

Some of the t-bars sharpen towards the end, indicating a sharp tongue and a critical nature.  Others are heavy and tilted downward towards the right, which shows aggression.

Clyfford Still's aggressive T-bars

Aggressive T-bars


Clyff's go-to-hell K

Clyff's go-to-hell K


More combativeness is shown in the letter k, which is abnormally large compared to the other letters.  This is known as a “go-to-hell K” because it shows a fiery, defiant spirit.  This was a man who wouldn’t suffer fools gladly.  Nobody could tell him what to do and he wouldn’t back down from a fight.

Clyff’s signature is consistent with the rest of his writing and shows that he did not wear a social mask; what you saw with him was pretty much what you got.

Clyfford Still signature

Clyfford Still signature

As with the rest of his writing:  great speed, penetrating intellect,  strong personality and much confidence is shown here.


Every week we like to show you a new image of Still and/or his work.  Today’s featured work comes to us via sapiroart and still_museum on Twitter.

ph-960, 1960

Contemplating Clyff at the Still Museum: ph-960, 1960

Thanks for joining us.

Come back next week at 7am (GMT) for more Sundays with Clyfford Still.

If you enjoyed this piece, please let me know in the comments box below. If you have any interesting tidbits or images about Clyff that you’d like to see featured, post a link to them in the comments (or tweet them to me with the hashtag #clyffordlove)  and I’ll see what I can do.

9 thoughts on “Sundays with Clyfford Still: Clyff’s writing analyzed (1)

  1. Handwriting analysis appears to be an art form in itself. Fascinating! Certainly brings a whole other dimension to keeping letters from the past. Thank you for the insight into Clyfford Still.

    It’s sad that the art of letter writing (by hand) is dying out.

  2. Pingback: Handwriting analysis results: Tracy « Snagglewordz

  3. Pingback: Sundays with Clyfford Still: Superb Owl edition « Exiled Stardust

  4. I found my way here via snagglewordz (comment above), and I agree that the analysis of Still’s handwriting was very interesting. More than just penmanship skill or his way with words, obviously, we get to take a glimpse into the way he actually lived, thought, and carried himself. Fascinating!

  5. Pingback: Handwriting analysis of artist Thomas Haskett « Exiled Stardust

  6. Pingback: Handwriting analysis of the Bronte sisters « Exiled Stardust

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s