Climate Change

Extreme climate events continue to intensify due to climate change, and works of art depicting the fury of natural elements, such as those by John Steuart Curry and Thomas Cole, are highly topical.

“My name is Greta Thunberg. I am a Swedish climate activist.”

An echoing, attention-grabbing name: Greta Thunberg. But why? Why are we so concerned about climate change? What is causing it? What are the risks we face?

In Italy, as elsewhere in the world, extreme climate events continue to intensify. According to Legambiente’s latest CittàClima report, nearly three hundred extreme climate events were recorded in Italy in 2022 alone.

Climate change is the most pressing challenge humanity is facing today.

After the landslide that hit Casamicciola, Ischia, last January 17, a tornado struck in the province of Rome, Valmontone. House roofs wiped out in a matter of minutes, families displaced, tiles turned into bullets, trees uprooted. Fortunately, no one was injured but there was significant damage.

A tornado in the Wilderness., Thomas Cole, 1835

Planet Earth is in an unprecedented energy imbalance. The global warming is intensifying so rapidly that it is inevitably creating consequences on the human ecosystem.

John Steuart Curry – an American artist of the first half of the 20th century – paints an extremely topical scene. We are in Kansas, and a group of farmers are trying to save their family from an oncoming tornado.

The sky is completely dark, except for the foreground, while the tornado pops up in the upper right side of the painting. The bodies appear rigid, almost statuesque because of the shapes the artist gives them, amplifying their majesty and strength through the almost metallic colors and dark strokes that demarcate them.

All the perspective lines appear diagonal, starting with the one at the lower left, where we find the entrance to a shelter probably made for these weather events, and branching out through the arms and heads of the five figures depicted, to the tip of the tornado, the most violent and destructive part.

Tornado sul Kansas, John Steuart Curry, 1929

In Tornado Over Kansas, Curry shows a moment of terror and awareness, a moment that sums up the coming tragedy and simplifies it, somehow, so that it is a direct and powerful message.

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) – an English artist but American by adoption – painted the tornado during the age of Romanticism: A Tornado in the Wilderness.

Cole completely breaks away from his romantic style and deals with a new theme, that of despair, of destruction, abandoning his beloved light palettes, and exchanging them for darker ones. The tornado has just passed, even in this work we see it in the distance, it has destroyed everything, wild and fierce. Uprooted trees, broken branches, nothing is left. The colors remain warm in the heart of the scene to symbolize the tragedy that has just occurred, while the noise can only be heard in the distance.

Everything is knocked down, destroyed by the power of a weather event so powerful that it leaves no shelter.

“Rebuild better: blah, blah, blah. Green economy: blah, blah, blah. Zero emissions by 2050: blah, blah, blah.” Greta Thunberg.

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