The Isidro Clot Collection of Salvador Dali Sculpture, The Salvador Dali Museum, (St. Petersburg, Florida, USA), January – June, 1986.
A. Reynolds Morse – The View of a Great Collector
Reynolds Morse [1914-2000] and his wife Eleanor began collecting works by Salvador Dali in 1943, the same year they married. Their passion for collecting all forms of the great Surrealist artist’s work continued to grow and was enhanced by their close friendship with Dali and Gala. This friendship continued up until the painter’s death in 1989. Their passion was to result in one of the three largest private collections of Dali’s work accumulated to date. The Morse Collection is now on display in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which is entirely devoted to the artist’s masterpieces.
Mr. Morse is very familiar with Dali’s works and is without doubt one of the people best qualified to talk about the sculptures. The following text includes excerpts from a paper written by A. Reynolds Morse in 1985 to mark the first time the Clot Collection was exhibited in the United States, in the Salvador Dali Museum.
There is great confusion in Dali’s artistic universe, between objects transformed by the artist for purposes of three-dimensional surrealist experimentation and this unique collection of original sculptures executed by Dali.
Dali himself and Gala created the very first Dalinian surrealist artifacts in the early 1930s. Dali describes reproductions of these in ‘Tribute to the Object’ –Cahiers d’Art, Vol. II, No. 12 ; in ‘Aerodynamic Apparitions and Being-Objects’ –Minotaure, No. 6  and in ‘Psycho-Atmospheric-Anamorphic Objects’ –Le Surréalisme au Service de la Révolution, No. 5 . At that time, Dali was already pre-empting the Pop Art movement that was to follow.
As Mr. Morse states: “It is here that one begins to see the fundamental difference which exists between the idea and the craftsman. Dali designed the Venus with Drawers with Marcel Duchamp, who supervised its creation. When I reproduced this in plaster in Paris, Dali became angry, saying that this had not been his idea at all. When I asked him what this idea was, he replied that ‘his’ Venus was a) bronze and b) painted white to look like plaster, ‘so that when someone goes to lift it up it is very heavy, and they will be surprised because it is heavier than they imagined.’ ”
This once again underlines everything that is incomparable about a Dalinian idea, which springs from the imagination of this master of all Surrealists, and is then entrusted to other artists or craftsmen to create a three-dimensional object.
According to Reynolds Morse, the phrase ‘after an idea from Dali’ does not denote a true Dali sculpture, as we would see it. This distinction is fundamental if one is to understand the importance of the first exhibition of original sculptures executed by Dali and to compare these with other aspects of this three-dimensional art.
“At the time, ” recalls Reynolds Morse “Dali modeled a vast succession of sculptures in wax, all of which he produced with his own two hands. ”
Over a six-to seven-year period, a collector-businessman quickly accumulated almost 50 of these wax sculptures. All bore the direct hallmarks of Dalí’s genius and, as Reynolds Morse adds: “From start to finish the ideas behind them and their execution belonged solely to Dali.”
Today, the Clot Collection comprises the only three-dimensional images that can correctly and authentically be described as ‘original sculptures by Salvador Dali’.
There nevertheless exists, among the works in the collection, an intimate reflection of the work of Marcel Duchamp [and even of Pablo Picasso], whose Objets Trouvés are metamorphosed into ironic creations, but ones seldom linked to the traditional art of an out-and-out sculptor. In this manner, Dali slays Pop Art in one fell swoop, underlining the fact that he had invented it in the 1930s, and places the emphasis on exploring the art of the future.
It soon becomes evident, according to Morse, and he is doubtless correct, that to all intents and purposes Dali eventually went beyond Surrealism and its banal up-to-the-minute symbolism. In short, he astounds us with something scandalously new and different.
As such, and as Reynolds Morse underlines when explaining just how innovative they are, Dali’s sculptures number among his last great achievements.
“What is exciting in the here and now ” says Mr. Morse, talking about the exhibition at the Dali Museum, “is that this is the first chance the world has had to assess Dali’s achievements as a sculptor rather than as a painter or a transformer of objects. The criteria may be different but, like Mr. Clot, many people will find that these sculptures are of lasting value. Everyone is of this opinion by virtue of the simple fact that they are so unlike anything else that Dali created. ”
Moreover, according to Reynolds Morse, when people talk of sculptures by Dali, they cannot mean works executed solely by the artist unless they are referring to the sculptures in the unique collection described here.
In truth, the range of the sculptures, which feature in this collection, becomes, when seen in its totality, as extensive as the vast range of colors that Dali used in his paintings.
Reynolds Morse underlines two good reasons for the Clot Collection, the first of which was “the entirely unique nature of these astonishing sculptures with respect to what the public still today views as typical of Dali. ” The second reason was, in Mr. Clot’s considered opinion, continues Reynolds Morse “the renewed demands made by traders who wanted to secure a sort of ‘exclusivity’ over ‘sculptures by Dali’. ” In fact, the events of the late 1970s and early 1980s – Mr. Morse reminds us that the Master was in poor health, had grown fragile with age and had ceased to work on sculptures when he left Port Lligat after the death of Gala – made Mr. Clot the sole and almost exclusive owner of all the original sculptures executed by Dali.
The Dali Foundation and Museum are also honored to be entrusted with the safekeeping of these copies of original sculptures by Dali and in particular to be able to sponsor this, the first exhibition of them.
Reynolds Morse, October 1985