Looking Back on the Original Salvador Dalí Museum in Beachwood, Ohio

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dalí Historian

 

The two photographs below have never been published anywhere before.

 

They pertain to the original Salvador Dalí Museum established provisionally in a wing of an office building in Beachwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, way back in 1971.

 

The one-room museum – which, due to zoning restrictions, had to be visited by appointment only (to control traffic) – housed part of the renowned Dalí collection of A. Reynolds and Eleanor R. Morse. As most anyone reading this blog knows, the museum, which opened on March 7, 1971, closed its doors in the late ‘70s in preparation for its rebirth in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1982.

 

Here’s a photo of a museum staffer and me in 1973, as we stood in what was known as the Salon of the Masterworks. That’s where three of Dalí’s huge masterpieces hung: Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus; The Ecumenical Council (part of which can be seen in the photo); and The Hallucinogenic Toreador, which the two of us are seen admiring.

 

First venue for public display of "Hallucinogenic Toreador"

First venue for public display of “Hallucinogenic Toreador”

 

What a gigantic stroke of painting genius!

 

It’s really something to rewind back to that time, given how far things have come since, what with the opening of the Dalí Museum in St. Pete in 1982 and now the current, far superior museum building that has become one of the world’s greatest cultural attractions and architectural triumphs.

 

Now to this rather remarkable black & white photo:

 

The single-room museum was contiguous with the plastics company offices owned by Reynolds Morse. So here, in a disheveled, prosaic, bureaucratic-looking business office is the celebrated, world-famous master of Surrealism! Salvador Dalí, resplendently dressed, right down to the snake bracelet, sits at a common office worker’s desk!

 

Catalan in Cleveland.

Catalan in Cleveland.

 

An executive of the IMS Co. hands him a reproduction of Christ of St. John of the Cross for Dalí’s coveted signature. This occurred, I believe, shortly before Dalí appeared across the hall to a clutch of news media and specially invited guests.

 

Isn’t that photo something!

 

SPEAKING OF UNKNOWN DALI IMAGES . . .

 

I again take my hat off to the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dalí in Figueres, Spain, for its online Catalog Raisonne of Dalí paintings (The Salvador Dalí Society® will be coming out soon with a definitive Catalog Raisonne of Dalí prints). Two very early works cataloged by the Fundacio have caught this blogger’s eye, which I’m sharing with readers today.

 

I’m certain most of you have never seen these images – and while both are portraits, they stand in stark contrast to one another.

 

Portrait of Grandmother Anna Sewing (c. 1919, oil on canvas, private collection, Italy) was originally owned by Anna Maria Dalí in Cadaques. What a dramatic portrait! There’s a kind of haunting, shadowy, almost ghostly aura to it, punctuated by the indiscriminate impasto technique that overspreads the entire work.

 

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And then, in stark contrast, is the truly beautiful portrait of an enchanting young lady in an untitled work, a.k.a., Portrait of a Girl (c. 1920, oil on burlap canvas, private collection). The subject seems to have at once both a contemplative look and one revealing the beginnings of a smile.

 

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Dalí did a wonderful job, technically, with her blouse. And whoever the girl was, she was stunning, captured sensitively by the precocious brush of 16-year-old Salvador.