In 1808 the watercolourist from Vaud, Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros, proposed the creation of an art school and offered his personal collection of 17th and 18th-century Italian works, plus his own watercolours, to be used for study purposes. He died, however, before his idea came to fruition. In 1816 his collection was purchased by the cantonal government of Vaud to form the nucleus of the Canton's art collection.

The Musée Arlaud

In 1822 the Vaudois painter Louis Arlaud set aside a part of his fortune for the construction of a building large enough to hold not only an art school but also a museum worthy of the pilot role that Vaud Canton intended to play in the Confederation.
The Musée Arlaud opened in 1841 and exhibited, in addition to the Ducros collection, the French and Italian works offered by the artist, who was also its first director.

The Palais de Rumine

The current museum occupies part of the second floor of the Palais de Rumine, a neo-Florentine Renaissance building constructed in 1904 in place de la Riponne, in the historic centre of Lausanne. The palace holds collections of natural history and archaeology, a section of the cantonal and university library, and the cantonal parliament. The museum has ten rooms, of which three are lit by overhead natural lighting, and a sculpture hall.


On the basis of the "Cantonal law regarding cultural activities", the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts (MCBA) has the following mission:

1. to acquire, accept on deposit, to conserve and make known to the public
    a) collections of works from the fine arts in general;
    b) typical examples of the production of artists of Vaudois origin or who
    spent much of their career in the canton of Vaud;

2. to organise, either in Switzerland or abroad, temporary or travelling
    exhibitions that satisfy the aims defined above;

3. to run a library dedicated to publications on the fine arts;

4. to uphold and invigorate the cultural life in the canton in the domain of the
    fine arts.

Therefore the MCBA has the three traditional objectives of all museums: to acquire, preserve, interprete and promote its collections. It operates on these principles for the benefit of all types of public (local inhabitants and tourists, specialists and the curious, young and old, etc.), opening the museum and its local environment up to the important concerns of our times, and assimilating our critical knowledge of the past to the multiplicity of issues that face us today. The museum fully assumes its role in the sphere of cultural and, more specifically, visual formation in a society in which images overwhelmingly represent the major source of information. 


"Museums preserve, interpret and promote the natural and cultural inheritance of humanity."

"Museums that maintain collections hold them in trust for the benefit of society and its development."

Extracts from the code of ethics of ICOM (International Council of Museums)