EXPIRED: 07/01/10 – Eleanor Morse. 97, was the daughter of a pharmaceuticals manufacturer who met Reynolds, her future husband, at a classical concert in Cleveland. He was a Harvard Business School graduate from Colorado, and had a great pick up line.
He asked Eleanor to see his etchings.
Their mutual love of art, and particularly of Salvador Dali’s, was the basis of a long lasting romance. As newlyweds they bought their first Dali painting for about $1,200. It was called Daddy Longlegs of the Evening, Hope! And it set their marriage, and their lives, on a decidedly different course. Their interest in such controversial art was one thing, but when a young, newly married, conservative couple from Cleveland started flying to New York, Paris and the Dalis’ home in northeastern Spain to have dinner with the eccentric artist and his wife, Gala, well – that was another scandal altogether.
But Eleanor didn’t mind. She loved Dali’s art.
And Dali was more than just an artist. He was a salesman. And he was constantly trying to sell the Morse’s on recent canvases he had created, and always seemed a bit agitated when they purchased something direct from a gallery, instead of from Dali himself.
By 1980 they had amassed 150 watercolors, 94 oils, and more than 1,000 prints and objects. In total they were now valued at over $50 million. To avoid a huge after death tax, and the realization that any heirs would have to sell off the collection to pay such a tax, the Morses opted to donate the collection. Unfortunately, every museum they approached wanted right to sell some of it.
So, in 1982 the Morses founded the Salvador Dali Museum on an outcropping of rocks on Bayboro Harbor in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The spot reminded Reynolds, who died in 2000 at the age of 85, of Dali’s childhood home on the northeast coast of Spain. And, thinking it would be a perfect spot for their museum, it is today the most comprehensive Dali archive in the world and an important research facility for scholars.
A new Dali Museum is scheduled to open in January 2011, just a few blocks north of its current location. Morse was closely involved with the design of this updated facility until her health began to deteriorate about three years ago.
If you are a fan of Dali, take a trip to see this collection, and thank Eleanor and Ren for bucking the conservative Clevelanders and following their heart.