The Rockwell Files: Sweet Memories

Norman Rockwell perfectly captures that mood of bittersweet reminiscence.

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Dreams of Long Ago by Norman Rockwell was published on the cover of the August 13, 1927, issue of the Post.
Norman Rockwell, © SEPS.

This cover idea came to Norman Rockwell when he paid a surprise visit to one of his favorite models, James Van Brunt.

The 80-year-old widower lived in a tiny but well-kept room in a run-down boarding house. Rockwell arrived to find the old man seated in a wicker chair, listening to an old gramophone and looking down at a few kernels of popping corn in his palm with “a sad, dreaming expression.”

Van Brunt welcomed him and extended his open palm. “You see this popping corn? It’s from a bag I bought my wife, Annabella, at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. When I look at it, I remember our trip and the Exposition and her.”

In this illustration, Rockwell recaptures that mood of bittersweet reminiscence by portraying Brunt as a cowboy tearfully listening to old records. He holds a recording of “Dreams of Long Ago,” a song written by Enrico Caruso. Its lyrics include the lines, “Summer’s gone and life grows cold / Still in dreams you’re mine
of old.”

This article is featured in the September/October 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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