Joan Miró executed Femme dans la nuit in 1966, the year of his important retrospective in Japan and a time when he was pursuing the joint influences of recent American painting and Japanese calligraphy. In this large work on froissé paper laid down on canvas, the crumpled sheet of brown paper provided an exceptionally rich, varied and tactile surface for the elaboration of a range of geometric patterns, soaring lines, splashes, drips of paints and patches of primary colour. Here, Miró uses the idiosyncratic vocabulary of the many forms he had developed over the course of the previous decades to vigorously depict the stylised figure of woman in a nocturnal setting.
From the late 1930s onwards, the particular materials Miró used assumed an ever more pronounced role within his creative process, serving as points of departure for his fertile imagination. 'I provoke accidents', Miró explained, 'a form, a spot of colour in the beginning, it's a direct thing. It's the material that decides' (Miró, quoted in M. Rowell (ed.), Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 219). This is particularly apparent in Femme dans la nuit where the rippling creases and furrows of the wrinkled paper acted as a prompt for the creation of a realm teeming with life and visual incident, very much illustrative of the artist's core belief that a work of art 'must give birth to a world' (Miró, quoted in ibid., p. 251). This world is contained within the defined bounds of thick black border, or 'frame', painted by Miró on a piece of canvas onto which the paper has been affixed.
The figure of a woman depicted at night was a perennial theme of Miró's, the woman perhaps personifying the earth's fecundity, with the star and circles emblematic of the cosmos surrounding her. An upward-thrust governs the composition of Femme dans la nuit with the schematically rendered woman appearing to emerge from the matrix of a chessboard-like design at the bottom of the sheet. This geometric division or compartmentalisation also features in other important works of the period, most notably in La Leçon de ski (1966) (D. & L. M. 1237; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Caracas). The relationships of the forms to one another in Femme dans la nuit recall the artist's metamorphic understanding of life where, he expounded:
'forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else. They become each other and in this way create the reality of a universe of signs and symbols in which figures pass from one realm to another, their feet touching the roots, becoming roots themselves as they disappear into the flowing hair of the constellations' (Miró, quoted in Ibid., p. 240).