The rooms 37 - 42 on the second floor of the Jesuit college mark a clean break with the previous section and explore the emergence of the modern world in painting. Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), the first hero of this aesthetic revolution, devoted himself to an artifice-free description of the real world, with a triumphant expression of a deep and truthful humanity. His friendship with the collector and art patron Alfred Bruyas has given the Musée Fabre a considerable collection of paintings, including 'The Meeting' and 'The Bathers'. The Montpellier painter Frederic Bazille (1841-1870) continued this exploration of the real world and set the foundations for a new style of painting; Impressionism.
Following investigations at the end of the 19th century where Symbolism restored the spiritual and mystery to painting (Carrière) the early 20th century avant-garde artists consecrated the brutal and dynamic use of colour (Matisse, Van Dongen, Delaunay, Dufy, Chabaud). It was used with a highly modern sensitivity and the violent contrasts reflected the upheavals of the First World War.