Image of Robert Larson painting, Tornado.
by Robert Larson, oil painting on board, 1977

Illinois' predominately flat landscape leaves us with ample sky to contemplate, making us all forecasters of coming storms. Nothing is more indicative of the powerful and unpredictable forces of weather than tornadoes, a not uncommon sight on our horizons. In Robert Larson’s painting, the artist aligns the funnel cloud with a dirt road, creating an elegant S-shape at the center of the image. Perhaps it refers to "tornado alley," that broad area of storm activity at the heart of North America. Or perhaps it has another meaning: a stormy road into another realm, not unlike the path Dorothy took to Oz in L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s books. Either way, Larson has captured a moment of awe and dread for many Illinoisans.

Robert Larson was a curator of exhibitions with the Illinois State Museum from 1962 to 1987. He specialized in painting murals for exhibits that brought the prehistoric landscape to life.

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