Salvador Dali with A. Reynolds Morse and Eleanor Morse.

Knoedler Gallery, New York 1943

Liz Navratil, The Plain Dealer

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA — Eleanor Reese Morse, a Cleveland native who with her husband amassed one of the world’s largest collections of Salvador Dali artwork, died of natural causes in St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday. She was 97.

 

An art and foreign language enthusiast, Morse opened the Salvador Dali Museum with her late husband in a wing of their Beachwood business and moved it to St. Petersburg in 1982.

Appraised at $35 million in 1979, the collection now holds 96 oil paintings, more than 100 watercolors and drawings and more than 1,300 other objects. The value now is more than $150 million.

Art was not her only passion. Morse also earned international recognition for her efforts to spread French and Spanish culture in the United States.

Born in 1912 to a Cleveland drug manufacturer, Morse attended Hathaway Brown School for Girls. She received a bachelor of music from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and a master’s degree in French and Spanish from Case Western Reserve University.

Morse married her husband, A. Reynolds Morse, in March 1942. On their one-year anniversary, the couple bought their first Dali piece,”Daddy Longlegs of the Evening — Hope!”

Shortly after, they met the artist in a New York bar, beginning a decades-long friendship.

As time passed, Mr. Morse’s affinity for Dali paintings grew. When it outstripped their budget — an estate tax would have required their family to sell nearly everything when they died — the couple established the Dali Museum. They moved the collection from their Shaker Heights home to a warehouse off Mr. Morse’s heavy machinery business in Beachwood.

The two searched for a museum or school to take the collection. St. Petersburg beat the competition, and the current museum was formed.

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