After the prosperity and freedom of the 1920s, the subsequent decade in Europe grew more ominous with each passing year. As national economies declined, the remedies proposed by fascism seemed increasingly appealing to many, and the liberal intelligentsia was everywhere on the defensive. Miró could have hid behind his own success, and in fact he was spending more time in his farm at Montroig and was less frequently seen in Paris. His career was on a steady track—in 1935 there were exhibitions of his work in Brussels, Tenerife and Prague—and his private and family life was settled and harmonious. Miró was nevertheless attuned to the political and social currents around him, and in a series of pastels drawn in the summer of 1934 he suddenly evoked a new and startling sense of menace. These were the first of a series of works executed over the next four years which the artist himself called his "savage paintings." As Jacques Dupin has observed, the year 1935 in which the present work, Femme, was completed, marked an abrupt change in Miró's painting. The artist's imagination turned to grotesque, savage and anxiety-ridden imagery. "From the beginning of 1935, and for some years thereafter, no matter what Miró set out to do, his brush conjured up nothing but monsters" (Miró, New York, 1962, p. 265).
The figure in the present painting is both alluring and feminine as well as disjointed and monstrous—with her elegant eye lashes, puckered lips and perfectly round breasts that are off-set by her wildly swinging and distorted arms and oversized head. Standing on top of a mountain of dense black that starkly contrasts the energy of the color fields behind her, punctuated by the artist's own fingerprints, Femme typifies what Roland Penrose discussed the works of 1935 as: "The biomorphic shapes in pure colour, which had moved in rhythmic dance in the compositions of 1933, now became solidified into fierce embodiments of female monsters seen in brilliant colour" (Miró, London, 1970, pp. 49-51).
Dupin notes that Miró attempted to fight off the growing presence of these monstrous figures in his work and this effort is best expressed through his gouaches of 1935: "The gouaches done in the summer of 1935 have shown us how Miró was sometimes surprised and overwhelmed by the images of terror that pursued him. We saw, too, how sometimes he succeeded, by force of will or trickery, to drive them away or otherwise get free of them. He had not accepted their intrusion as an irresistible fatality, still less as a possible means of salvation. In the end, however, the monsters defeated him; they came to stay. In the fall of 1935 he realized that he would be able to free himself from them, if ever, only by putting all his resources at their disposal—his palette, his line, his sensibility, and his intelligence" (ibid., p. 199).