Girl with Plant exemplifies the figurative style that occupied Diebenkorn between 1955 and 1967. Just as he reached his peak as a painter in the abstract-expressionist mode, he believed his abstractions were becoming too expressive and emotional. Although he continued to conceive of his paintings as abstract arrangements of form and color, he began to turn to specific objects and models found in nature, which became sources for observation and interpretation of spatial composition and color relationships. The limitations imposed by a concrete subject appealed to Diebenkorn's innate sense of order and control; he appreciated the conflict between reality and abstraction. This change in style perhaps was influenced by Diebenkorn’s friend and mentor David Park, who began painting representational works in the early 1950s.
With the addition of the human figure, Diebenkorn heightens the conflict between representation and abstraction, exemplified in Girl with Plant. He became fascinated with the manner in which the figure and its environment interacted to create highly emotional works. In his desire to evoke a pervasive mood, Diebenkorn sought to de-emphasize his figures as emotional focal points by depicting them either without faces or from behind. In Girl with Plant, the figure is shown with her back to the viewer and seems to be embedded in the painting surface, as are the inanimate elements of the composition—the potted plant, chair, and window. Despite the girl's objective treatment, her presence adds a pensive, solemn air that is slightly defused by the image's vivid color. Favoring a mood of solitude in the tradition of Edward Hopper, Diebenkorn never included more than two figures in a painting.