The first floor of the Jesuit college, built in 1630 as the city residence of the Bishop of Maguelone, now displays work which highlights the tensions which traversed French painting between 1830 - 1850.
Painters were divided between classical aspirations (Ingres, Cabanel) and the expression of romantic sentiments (Delacroix, Géricault). They oscillated between a refined technique with precise drawing and the liberation of passions expressed through the force of colours, between ancient and modern history (Monvoisin) and between the European world and an idealised Orient.
Landscape painting was also profoundly revived. It was divided between a taste for the picturesque (Richard, Danvin) and the expression of a new sensitivity for a humanised and poetic nature (Corot, Rousseau). These diverse aspirations are notable in the collection of Alfred Bruyas (1821-1877), a collector who was as rich as he was impassioned. He dedicated his life and his fortune to supporting art of his time. His collection was unique in its genre and he bequeathed it to the museum in his native city.