The world's most comprehensive collection of original works by the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.
Compiled by husband and wife Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, the Morse Collection includes more than 90 original oil paintings (spanning from 1917 to 1970), over 100 watercolors and drawings, and more than a thousand graphics, photographs, sculptures, and "objects d'art."
The collection also includes a "Dalí journal" written by Reynolds Morse, in which he documented various observations and thoughts regarding the artist during their 50-year-long friendship. The journal, which had grown to 17 volumes by 1995, also included commentary by Dalí himself, and was eventually used as the basis for many of the art collector's scholarly publications, including The Dalí Adventure and Salvador Dalí: A Panorama of His Work.
The Morses began collecting Dalí works in 1943, when Reynolds and Eleanor purchased a painting to commemorate their one-year wedding anniversary.
According to the couple, after being married for nearly a year, it was decided that they would begin acquiring an art collection. Rather than accumulating a bunch of different works from disparate artists, the Morses decided that they would select one "up and coming" artist and primarily collect his or her work for the extent of the artist's career.
Before they were husband and wife, Reynolds and Eleanor had attended a traveling Salvador Dalí exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Both were intrigued by the artist's bold surrealist style, so when they later began searching for the artist whose work they would spend the rest of their lives collecting, it was no surprise when they finally settled upon Dalí.
Their first acquisition was Dalí's Daddy Longlegs of the Evening-Hope!, purchased from the Bignou Gallery in New York. Eventually, the couple would collect dozens of paintings from each of Dalí's four major periods, the Early, Transitional, Surreal, and Classic. The Morses even collected several of Dalí's "masterworks" (of which there are only 12 in existence), including The Hallucinogenic Toreador, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and The Ecumenical Council.
Shortly after acquiring Daddy Longlegs, the Morses sent word that they would like to meet the artist upon whose work they would be building their new collection. Dalí agreed, and he and his wife Gala met with the couple for drinks at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. The two couples became fast friends and soon the Morses began attending all of Dalí's gallery show previews, getting first pick over all of the artist's new works. And thus the Morse Collection continued to grow.
For decades, the collection was privately displayed in the Morses' home in Cleveland. In 1965, the Morses agreed to loan over 200 pieces of Dalí art to a museum retrospective; shortly afterwards, they realized that their collection had grown to a such a size as to warrant its own museum. As the Salvador Dalí Museum website puts it, Reynolds and Eleanor "realized that a quarter-century of collecting had produced a mini retrospective that needed and deserved a permanent home in its own right."
In 1971, with Salvador Dalí officiating the ceremony himself, the Morses opened the first Dalí Museum next to their office building in Beachwood, Ohio. The Morse Collection remained in this museum for a decade, after which it was decided that limited space and an overwhelming number of visitors was too much for the small building and the search for an alternate venue began.
At this point, the Morses offered to donate their entire collection to a worthy museum. But, wanting to ensure that their life's work not be undone, the Morse Collection was offered under the condition that it remain intact. That is, none of the pieces within the collection could be traded or sold by the museum receiving the donation.
Eventually, a group in St. Petersburg, Florida organized and gathered support from their city and state government for the creation of a museum devoted entirely to the works of Salvador Dalí. The Morses, believing Florida's tourist trade would bring a great deal of exposure to their collection, were pleased with the idea of a Dalí museum in St. Petersburg.
A location in St. Petersburg's Bayboro Harbor was selected as the site for the new museum, as Reynolds and Eleanor felt the area around the harbor resembled Cadaques, Dalí's childhood home.
On March 10, 1982, the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg was opened to the public, and the Morse Collection had finally found its permanent home. With the Morse Collection as its core, the Salvador Dalí Museum remains host to the most comprehensive public collection of Salvador Dalí works in the world.
1. http://www.salvadordalimuseum.org/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/info/history/founders.html?L+dali+gcth6312+1042786309 (16 Jan 2003).
2. http://www.salvadordalimuseum.org/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/info/history/index.html?L+dali+gcth6312+1042778500 (16 Jan 2003).
3. http://www.salvadordalimuseum.org/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/info/history/adventure.html?L+dali+gcth6312+1042786309 (16 Jan 2003).
4. Bill Cahoon (tour guide/historian). Salvador Dalí Museum: 11 Jan 2003.