Miró executed Femme sur la prairie à l'heure du crépuscule during the Spanish Civil War, which began in July 1936 when General Francisco Franco led an uprising of fascist and other right-wing elements against the elected left-wing government. Miró had been spending most of his time since mid-1935 working in his family's residences in Barcelona and nearby Montroig. There had already been local outbreaks of factional violence, and Miró, who backed the loyalist, pro-government cause, was concerned that the situation would soon deteriorate. He left for Paris in October 1936, bringing with him some recent works he planned to ship to Pierre Matisse in New York. He left behind about a hundred works still in progress. By late November the situation in Spain seemed so dangerous that the artist decided to remain in Paris, and he sent for his wife Pilar and daughter Dolores to join him.
The Miró family at first stayed in a series of hotels, and in March 1937 moved into a modest apartment at 98, Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui. The artist was able to use a room as a studio but this space was hardly adequate, a situation which Miró had experienced before. He addressed the issue in an autobiographical article written for the journal XXe Siècle two months after the present work was painted in May 1938, titled "I dream of a large studio." In April the Spanish government commissioned Miró to paint a monumental work for the Spanish pavilion in the Paris "Exposition internationale" (World's Fair), which was scheduled to open in July. Miró worked on his painting Le Faucheur (The Reaper, Catalan peasant in revolt) early in the summer, executing it in sections on celotex panels. He completed it in time for the inauguration of the pavilion. Also on display in the same building was Picasso's celebrated mural Guernica (Zervos, vol. 9, no. 65; Museo Nacional Centro del Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid).
Miró's "assault upon the human figure" involved a process that few would have expected in an artist of his maturity and accomplishment--he attended life-drawing classes, seating himself among students less than half his age, at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. The drawings he made, however, in no way resembled the studious efforts of his classmates: torsos and limbs bend and twist about in fluid, looping lines. He drew models singly and in mixed groups, in exercises that helped him to hone the linear counterpoint and compositional rhythms that enliven the masterly works of this period. This is seen in Femme sur la prairie à l'heure du crépuscule, in which a single figure, drawn in this spontaneous and freewheeling manner, interacts with the horizon and a single star that hovers above it all.
Referring to the 1938 and 1939 works on paper, Jacques Dupin wrote that "the imagination is sovereign: nothing obstructs or guides its spontaneous flow. The figures it creates are often very close to the nudes done at Grande Chaumière, but now linear invention is based on the play of colors and the texture of the grounds. His hand is so light and flexible that he does not seem so much to guide as to free them from their original chaos and blindness. Everything seems to originate in clouds or mists of pastel, smudges of gouache torrents or puddles of watercolor, scumbles of colored pencils, splatters of ink" (Joan Miró, Life and Work, New York, 1961, p. 300).