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; to Pierre Matisse); [Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, until 1947; sold to Colin]; Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York (1947–his d. 1985); Mrs. Ralph F. (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.
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]," 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 16, 1980, no. 44.
Vienna. Museum Moderner Kunst. "Dubuffet Retrospektive," November 20, 1980–January 18, 1981, no. 44.