Known for his raw, childlike images that incorporate unconventional materials and his wry sense of humor, Dubuffet based Woman Grinding Coffee on his wife, Lily. The painting bears little resemblance to her; Dubuffet has flattened the head and broadened the body to completely fill the composition with her frontal figure. Her form is silhouetted against a somber background, which is actually a relief built with droppings, lumps, and furrows combined into a substance that Dubuffet described as "earth fermented by water." This approach exemplifies his concept of "art brut" (raw art), meaning art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms.
Inscription: Signed and dated (verso): J. Dubuffet / noël 1945
the artist, Paris (from 1945; sold to Pierre Matisse); [Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, until 1947; sold on February 3, 1947 to Colin]; Ralph F. and Georgia Talmey Colin, New York (1947–his d. 1985); Georgia Talmey Colin, New York (1985–d. 1994; her bequest to MMA)
Paris. Galerie René Drouin. "Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie, Haute Pâtes de J. Dubuffet," May 3–June 1, 1946, unnumbered cat. (p. 9; as "Cafetière").
New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "J. Dubuffet Paintings," January 7–February 1, 1947, no. 14 (as "Mouleuse de café").
New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Paintings by Jean Dubuffet," January 24–February 18, 1950, no. 8.
New York. Knoedler Gallery. "The Colin Collection: Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture," April 12–May 14, 1960, no. 92 (as "Mouleuse de café [The Coffee Grinder]").
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "The Work of Jean Dubuffet," February 19–April 8, 1962, no. 26 (as "The Coffee Grinder ['Mouleuse de café' or 'Cafetière']," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York).
Art Institute of Chicago. "The Work of Jean Dubuffet," May 11–June 17, 1962, no. 26.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Work of Jean Dubuffet," July 10–August 12, 1962, no. 26.
London. Tate Gallery. "Jean Dubuffet: Paintings," April 23–May 30, 1966, no. 16 (as "Cafetière [ou Mouleuse de café] [Coffee Grinder]," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York).
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Dubuffet," June 10–August 28, 1966, no. 11 (as "Cafetière [ou Mouleuse de café]," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York).
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective," April 27–July 29, 1973, no. 19 (as "Cafetière [ou Mouleuse de Café], Coffee Grinder," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York).
Berlin. Akademie der Künste. "Dubuffet Retrospektive," September 7–October 26, 1980, no. 44 (as "Cafetière [ou Mouleuse de café]," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York).
Vienna. Museum Moderner Kunst. "Dubuffet Retrospektive," November 20, 1980–January 18, 1981, no. 44.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: 1993–1995," July 28–September 24, 1995, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painters in Paris: 1895–1950," March 8–December 31, 2000, extended to January 14, 2001, unnumbered cat. (p. 118).
New York. Pierpont Morgan Library. "Pierre Matisse and His Artists," February 14–May 19, 2002, no. 43 (as "The Coffee Grinder [Mouleuse de café]").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection," May 18, 2004–June 26, 2005, no catalogue.
Jean Dubuffet. Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre. [Paris], 1946, pp. 9–11.
Michel Tapié. Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie, Haute Pâtes de J. Dubuffet. Exh. cat., Galerie René Drouin. Paris, 1946, p. 35, ill. p. 9.
Look (May 9, 1950), ill. p. 35.
Georges Limbour. Tableau bon levain à vous de cuire la pâte: L'Art Brut de Jean Dubuffet. New York, 1953, p. 100, ill. p. 23, calls it "Mouleuse de café".
Ralph F. Colin. The Colin Collection: Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Exh. cat., Knoedler Gallery. New York, 1960, unpaginated, no. 92, ill.
"Manet to Arp—The Colin Collection." Vogue 135 (April 15, 1960), p. 151.
John Canaday. "Matter of Seeing: A Superb 'Collection' is a Lesson in the Fundamental Joy of Art." New York Times (April 17, 1960), ill. p. X11.
"Today's Collectors: Colin and Spingold." Art News 59 (April 1960), ill. p. 32.
Peter Selz. The Work of Jean Dubuffet. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1962, p. 31, no. 26, ill. p. 27.
Lorenza Trucchi. L'Occhio di Dubuffet. [Rome], 1965, p. 375, pl. 56, calls it "Mouleuse de café".
Max Loreau. Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet. Vol. 2, Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie. Paris, 1966, pp. 65, 130, no. 93, ill. p. 64, calls it "Cafetière (ou Mouleuse de café)".
Alan Bowness. Jean Dubuffet: Paintings. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1966, pp. 22, 25, no. 16, ill. p. 23.
William S. Lieberman in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1994–1995." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 53 (Fall 1995), p. 66, ill., calls it "The Coffee Grinder".
Roberta Smith. "Avoiding the Hip, the Trendy, and the Political." New York Times (September 8, 1995), p. C24.
William S. Lieberman. "Donnés au Met." Connaissance des arts no. 539 (May 1997), p. 72.
Grace Glueck. "When One City Was the Heart of Art's Youth." New York Times (March 10, 2000), p. E39, ill., notes that the artist gave this work to his wife as a Christmas gift in 1945 when it was difficult to obtain real coffee in Paris.
William S. Lieberman. "Les Peintres de Paris à New York." Connaissance des arts no. 578 (December 2000), p. 130, fig. 3 (color), calls it "Femme en train de moudre le café".
William M. Griswold and Jennifer Tonkovich. Pierre Matisse and His Artists. Exh. cat., Pierpont Morgan Library. New York, 2002, pp. 110–12, no. 43, ill. (color).
Richard Meyer. "Changing Partners: Richard Meyer on 'Reimagining Modernism' at the Met." Artforum (November 2015), p. 144, ill. p. 146 (color).