Executed in 1952, Le mécontent (Figure rose et gris-bleu à mi-corps) is an outstandingly raw portrait of a man that reflects the artist's belief in Art Brut. An imposing and powerful work of great presence, Le mécontent is a work whose surface vibrates and resonates with raw energy looking more like a piece of street graffiti than an oil portrait. Every indication of skill or craftsmanship has been subordinated in order to assert the primal force and energy of expression that Dubuffet believed was only to be found in areas away from the hallowed halls of the art gallery. "Real art is always lurking where you don't expect it. Where nobody's thinking about it or mentions its name," Dubuffet had written in 1949, proudly asserting his belief in the supremacy of Art Brut. (J. Dubuffet, L'Art Brut préféré aux Arts Culturels, exh. cat., Galerie René Drouin, 1949).
Seeking an art that connected directly with the common man, Dubuffet valued most highly the untutored art of children, of street graffiti and of mental patients whose art had greatly impressed him on seeing it reproduced in Dr. H. Prinzhorn's 1922 book Bildnerei der Geisteskranken. In the portraits he began to paint in the spring of 1950, Dubuffet deliberately sought to express the power of raw, crude and untutored gestures; to celebrate their assault on the delicate niceties of conventional notions of peinture and of the artist as a master craftsman by assaulting the canvas and presenting upon it the raw earthy reality of everyday life. Some of Dubuffet's most challenging works from this period in fact seem to have little to do with the human form, and relate more to earth -rocks, dirt, flora and fauna and all things botanical. The artist took distinct pleasure from the act of creating these polarities within his pictures, to provoke new relationships and meanings.
Although similar in many respects, Le mécontent differs from these works in that here Dubuffet clearly presents a portrait of an individual. Given a clear personality with his intense expression and gesturing hand scrawled into the heavy earthy surface of the work, Dubuffet's emphasis here is on the graphic power of his raw incisions into the textured surface of the work and their ability to carve the outlines of a distinct personality. The thick texture of work bestows a sense of universality, but out of this an individual human presence emerges. Dubuffet's loose scrawls do not just delineate the form of this male figure, but they also capture a trace of his prescence, if not the universal feeling of discontent and unease in the Post-War reconstruction period. Like the scratch marks that show the ravages of time on the walls and doors of a busy street, they mark a living presence and it is in this respect that Le mécontent clearly exemplifies the highest aims of Art Brut.