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An enduring friendship helped make the Salvador Dali Museum possible

Salvador Dalí Museum history
[Photo courtesy of the Dalí Museum; Interactive: Lennie Bennett, Lee Glynn | Times]
Salvador Dalí and museum founders Reynolds and Eleanor Morse photographed in 1943.

It was back in 1943 that A. Reynolds Morse and his wife, Eleanor, first began collecting Salvador Dalí paintings. The first was a wedding gift to each other, purchased after they had seen a show by Dalí at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The couple continued, methodically collecting Dalí works over the next 40 years. As they did, the Morses forged a long-time friendship with Salvador Dalí and his wife, Gala.

In the late 1970s, they decided to donate their Dalí collection, which by then totaled about 1,400 works, including 93 paintings, to a museum. But their stipulation that it be kept intact deterred major museums from acquiring it. St. Petersburg, though, saw the potential in having a shrine to the surrealist’s work.

It turned out to be a good match. The Morses were won over by the proposed site, which reminded them of Dalí’s native Catalonia with its sea and rocks.

In 1982, the museum opened in the southern portion of downtown St. Petersburg, with its Dalí signature as one of its bold architectural statements. Visitors the world over flocked to see the surrealism in Dalí’s paintings: Eggs on the Plate Without the Plate, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, Lobster Telephone.

The Morses eventually bought a house in St. Petersburg and continued to nurture Dali’s legacy as the museum’s stature grew in the art world.

Now a new and bolder Salvador Dalí Museum has risen along the picturesque waterfront. And the Morses and Salvador Dalí are again in the art world spotlight. Take a journey in this special presentation as we present the story of an enduring friendship and a dream realized.

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