The museum was created by private initiative in 1841, and private funds still help acquisitions with gifts and legacies. In 2014, the museum conserved around 10'000 artworks. A part of them retrace a general history of art since ancien Egypt, but the biggest part concerns art from the end of the XVIIIe to post-impressionism. The reputation of the museum is due to five great collections : the funds of Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros (1748-1810), Charles Gleyre (1806-1874), Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923), Félix Vallotton (1865-1925), Louis Soutter (1871-1942).
Modern and contemporary art collections includes works by Marcel Broodthaers, Rolf Iseli, Tadeusz Kantor, Charles Rollier, Daniel Spoerri or Maria Elena Vieira da Silva. Expressive figuration is widely present with Günther Brus, Luciano Castelli, Miriam Cahn, Martin Disler, Leiko Ikemura, Arnulf Rainer, Klaudia Schifferle, and Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, among others.
In the years 1990-2010, the museum focuses on the acquisition of majors works of international artists such as Christian Boltanski, Tom Burr, Sophie Calle, Alfredo Jaar, Nalini Malani, Bruce Nauman, Jim Shaw, as well as representing local artists like Jean-Luc Manz, Alain Huck, Fabrice Gygi, Silvie Defraoui, Philippe Decrauzat, Didier Rittener, Denis Savary, Annaïk Lou Pitteloud et Anne-Julie Raccoursier.
Intérieur aux deux verres by Marius Borgeaud (1923)
À Ouchy by François Bocion (1874)