Since its inauguration in 1897, the museum has enriched its collections thanks to the support of its public. The very first work - inventory number 1 - a view of Lake Geneva by François Bocion was acquired by public subscription from the people of Vevey.
The museum then received generous donations and bequests, such as several paintings by Gustave Courbet offered by his sister Juliette in 1914, after the artist’s death in 1877 in La Tour-de-Peilz.
In the 1950s, the curator of the Musée Jenisch Vevey was François Daulte, the future director of the Fondation de l’Hermitage in Lausanne, who organised important exhibitions on Impressionism and the School of Paris (Renoir, Utrillo, Vuillard, etc.).
Bernard Blatter was director from 1983 to 2004 and gave the museum its letters of nobility. Reorganised during extensive works in 1988, the exhibition spaces, now freed from the natural science and zoology collections, could focus on the Fine Arts. By hosting the Kokoschka Foundation (founded in 1988) and the Cabinet cantonal des estampes (attached to the Vevey building since 1989), the Musée Jenisch became a cultural landmark of the canton.
Appointed director in 2004, Dominique Radrizzani, a drawing specialist, emphasised the strong presence of drawing in Vevey. He also opened the programme to contemporary art, with "carte blanche" exhibitions given to various artists.
Between 2013 and 2018, Julie Enckell Julliard, previously curator of modern and contemporary art, directed the museum, continuing to highlight the worlds of printmaking and drawing and extending the reflection on the place of paper in contemporary art.
Since her arrival in 2019, Nathalie Chaix has affirmed the institution’s position as a centre of excellence for the conservation and development of works on paper.
The collections of the Musée Jenisch are constituted by deposits of artists’funds (Lélo Fiaux, Wilhelm Gimmi, Jacques Pajak) and by important donations. It is thanks to private initiative, among other things, that the collection of drawings has been enriched with major pieces. In 1968, an important bequest from René de Cérenville added more than 150 old drawings, including several rare sheets by famous Italian Renaissance artists. In 2007, a collector left Vevey a collection of 400 drawings from the 18th century in France and Italy, a collection that is constantly being expanded. In 2014, Rudolf Schindler donated an exceptional collection of 632 drawings by Ferdinand Hodler to the museum. In 2019, the Fondation des Amis du Musée Jenisch donated its entire collection to the museum.
The museum now houses temporary exhibitions on the ground floor, while the highlights of the museum - historical collections of paintings from the 16th century to contemporary creations, the Oskar Kokoschka Foundation space, prints and drawings - are on permanent display upstairs, thanks to regularly renewed hangings.
The Pavillon de l’estampe, a central space located on the first floor, offers three temporary exhibitions per year, with a wide variety of works: old and contemporary prints, original themes, monographic presentations, collections of prints, etc.