First floor - galleries of various sizes
With the works on deposit from the state and the acquisition of the Cacault Collection, the museum already had a significant collection of the art of the past; so in 1838 the Municipality decided to emphasise the purchase of contemporary works. This innovative policy is still being pursued today.
One result was that the 1840s saw the acquisition of works by major figures from the Paris Salon: Delacroix, Rousseau, Corot and Gérôme. In addition, a number of gifts brought in artists representative of the period 1830–50, such as Flandrin, Delaroche, Steuben and Hesse (the Clarke de Feltre bequest in 1852), and Brascassat, Gros, Vernet and Scheffer (a donation by Nantes collector Urvoy de Saint-Bedan in 1854). In 1886, however, in the context of a major exhibition that included such contemporary innovators as Renoir, Gauguin and Signac, the museum opted for the purchase of works by artists like Boggs, Luminais, Moreau de Tours and Roll, which reflected the public's taste for the academic. Nonetheless, the collection illustrates the diversity of movements and genres that marked the 19th century: history painting (Gros's Le Combat de Nazareth), the portrait (Ingres's Portrait de Madame de Senonnes), Orientalism (Lecomte du Noüy's L'Esclave blanche), Réalism (Courbet's Les Cribleuses de blé) and the Pre-Raphaelites (Burne-Jones's Portrait de Lady Frances Balfour).
The museum also set out, via purchases, deposits and gifts, to provide a comprehensive selection of Nantes' most talented painters: landscape specialists like Leroux and Maufra, history painters and portraitists like Delaunay, Merson, Picou, Tissot (Suite de l'enfant prodigue : Le Veau gras) and Maxence (L'Ame de la forêt, on deposit from the National Contemporary Art Collection) – to cite only the best-known of them.