Chiaroscuro
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Chiaroscuro ( , ; ), in
art Art is a diverse range of human activity, and resulting product, that involves creative or imaginative talent expressive of technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definition of wha ...
, is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and
art historian Art history is the study of aesthetic objects and visual expression in History, historical and stylistic context. Traditionally, the discipline of art history emphasized painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, ceramics and decorative arts; y ...
s for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures. Similar effects in cinema, and black and white and low-key photography, are also called chiaroscuro. Further specialized uses of the term include chiaroscuro woodcut for coloured woodcuts printed with different blocks, each using a different coloured ink; and chiaroscuro drawing for drawings on coloured paper in a dark medium with white highlighting. Chiaroscuro is one of the
canonical painting modes of the Renaissance Italian Renaissance painting is the painting of the period beginning in the late 13th century and flourishing from the early 15th to late 16th centuries, occurring in the Italian Peninsula, which was at that time divided into many political stat ...
(alongside cangiante,
sfumato Sfumato (, ) is a painting technique for softening the transition between colours, mimicking an area beyond what the human eye is focusing on, or the out-of-focus plane. It is one of the canonical painting modes of the Renaissance. Leonardo da V ...
and unione) (see also
Renaissance art Renaissance art (1350 – 1620 AD) is the painting, sculpture, and decorative arts of the period of European history known as the Renaissance, which emerged as a distinct style in Italy in about AD 1400, in parallel with developments which occ ...
). Artists known for using the technique include
Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 14522 May 1519) was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance who was active as a painter, Drawing, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, and architect. While his fame initially res ...
,
Caravaggio Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio, known as simply Caravaggio (, , ; 29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610), was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life. During the final four years of hi ...
Rembrandt Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (, ; 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669), usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and Drawing, draughtsman. An innovative and prolific Old Masters, master in three art medi ...
, Vermeer and
Goya Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (; ; 30 March 174616 April 1828) was a Spanish Romanticism, romantic painter and Printmaking, printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His p ...
, and Georges de La Tour.


History


Origin in the chiaroscuro drawing

The term ''chiaroscuro'' originated during the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a Periodization, period in History of Europe, European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an e ...
as drawing on coloured paper, where the artist worked from the paper's base tone toward light using white
gouache Gouache (; ), body color, or opaque watercolor is a water-medium paint consisting of Pigment, natural pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic or dextrin), and sometimes additional Chemically inert, inert material. Gouache is designe ...
, and toward dark using ink, bodycolour or
watercolour Watercolor (American English) or watercolour (British English; see American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, spelling differences), also ''aquarelle'' (; from Italian diminutive of Latin ''aqua'' "water"), is a painting met ...
. These in turn drew on traditions in
illuminated manuscript An illuminated manuscript is a formally prepared manuscript, document where the text is often supplemented with flourishes such as marginalia, borders and Miniature (illuminated manuscript), miniature illustrations. Often used in the Roman Catho ...
s going back to late Roman Imperial manuscripts on purple-dyed vellum. Such works are called "chiaroscuro drawings", but may only be described in modern museum terminology by such formulae as "pen on prepared paper, heightened with white bodycolour". Chiaroscuro woodcuts began as imitations of this technique. When discussing Italian art, the term sometimes is used to mean painted images in monochrome or two colours, more generally known in English by the French equivalent,
grisaille Grisaille ( or ; french: grisaille, lit=greyed , from ''gris'' 'grey') is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish colour. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many g ...
. The term broadened in meaning early on to cover all strong contrasts in illumination between light and dark areas in art, which is now the primary meaning.


Chiaroscuro modelling

The more technical use of the term chiaroscuro is the effect of light modelling in
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "matrix" or "support"). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and ai ...
,
drawing Drawing is a form of Visual arts, visual art in which an artist uses instruments to mark paper or other two-dimensional surface. Drawing instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, various kinds of paints, inked brushes, colored pencils, ...
, or
printmaking Printmaking is the process of creating work of art, artworks by printing, normally on paper, but also on fabric, wood, metal, and other surfaces. "Traditional printmaking" normally covers only the process of creating prints using a hand proce ...
, where three-dimensional volume is suggested by the value gradation of colour and the analytical division of light and shadow shapes—often called "
shading Shading refers to the depiction of depth perception in 3D models (within the field of 3D computer graphics) or illustrations (in visual art) by varying the level of darkness. Shading tries to approximate local behavior of light on the object's ...
". The invention of these effects in the West, "''skiagraphia''" or "shadow-painting" to the Ancient Greeks, traditionally was ascribed to the famous Athenian painter of the fifth century BC, Apollodoros. Although few Ancient Greek paintings survive, their understanding of the effect of light modelling still may be seen in the late-fourth-century BC mosaics of
Pella Pella ( el, Πέλλα) is an ancient city located in Central Macedonia, Greece. It is best-known for serving as the capital city of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia (ancient kingdom), Macedon, and was the birthplace of Ale ...
, Macedonia, in particular the '' Stag Hunt Mosaic'', in the House of the Abduction of Helen, inscribed ''gnosis epoesen'', or 'knowledge did it'. The technique also survived in rather crude standardized form in
Byzantine art Byzantine art comprises the body of Christian Greek artistic products of the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Roman Empire, as well as the nations and states that inherited culturally from the empire. Though the empire itself emerged from the decline of ...
and was refined again in the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
to become standard by the early fifteenth-century in painting and
manuscript illumination An illuminated manuscript is a formally prepared document where the text is often supplemented with flourishes such as borders and miniature illustrations. Often used in the Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as ...
in Italy and Flanders, and then spread to all Western art. According to the theory of the art historian Marcia B. Hall, which has gained considerable acceptance, chiaroscuro is one of four modes of painting colours available to Italian
High Renaissance In art history, the High Renaissance was a short period of the most exceptional artistic production in the Italian states, particularly Rome, capital of the Papal States, and in Florence, during the Italian Renaissance. Most art historians stat ...
painters, along with '' cangiante'',
sfumato Sfumato (, ) is a painting technique for softening the transition between colours, mimicking an area beyond what the human eye is focusing on, or the out-of-focus plane. It is one of the canonical painting modes of the Renaissance. Leonardo da V ...
and '' unione''. The Raphael painting illustrated, with light coming from the left, demonstrates both delicate modelling chiaroscuro to give volume to the body of the model, and strong chiaroscuro in the more common sense, in the contrast between the well-lit model and the very dark background of foliage. To further complicate matters, however, the compositional chiaroscuro of the contrast between model and background probably would not be described using this term, as the two elements are almost completely separated. The term is mostly used to describe compositions where at least some principal elements of the main composition show the transition between light and dark, as in the Baglioni and Geertgen tot Sint Jans paintings illustrated above and below. Chiaroscuro modelling is now taken for granted, but it has had some opponents; namely: the English portrait miniaturist
Nicholas Hilliard Nicholas Hilliard () was an English goldsmith and limning, limner best known for his portrait miniatures of members of the courts of Elizabeth I of England, Elizabeth I and James I of England. He mostly painted small oval miniatures, but also ...
cautioned in his treatise on painting against all but the minimal use we see in his works, reflecting the views of his patron Queen
Elizabeth I of England Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was List of English monarchs, Queen of England and List of Irish monarchs, Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603. Elizabeth was the last of the five House of Tudor monarchs and is ...
: "seeing that best to show oneself needeth no shadow of place but rather the open light... Her Majesty... chose her place to sit for that purpose in the open alley of a goodly garden, where no tree was near, nor any shadow at all..." In drawings and prints, modelling chiaroscuro often is achieved by the use of
hatching Hatching (french: hachure) is an List of art techniques, artistic technique used to create Tint, shade and tone, tonal or shading effects by drawing (or painting or scribing) closely spaced parallel lines. (It is also used in monochromatic repre ...
, or shading by parallel lines. Washes,
stipple Stippling is the creation of a pattern simulating varying Grayscale, degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots. Such a pattern may occur in nature and these effects are frequently emulated by artists. Art In printmaking, stipple eng ...
or dotting effects, and " surface tone" in printmaking are other techniques.


Chiaroscuro woodcuts

Chiaroscuro woodcuts are
old master print An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition. The term remains current in the art trade, and there is no easy alternative in English to distinguish the works of "fine art" produced in printmakin ...
s in
woodcut Woodcut is a relief printing technique in printmaking. An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with Chisel#Gouge, gouges—leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts ...
using two or more blocks printed in different colours; they do not necessarily feature strong contrasts of light and dark. They were first produced to achieve similar effects to chiaroscuro drawings. After some early experiments in book-printing, the true chiaroscuro woodcut conceived for two blocks was probably first invented by
Lucas Cranach the Elder Lucas Cranach the Elder (german: Lucas Cranach der Ältere ;  – 16 October 1553) was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known ...
in Germany in 1508 or 1509, though he backdated some of his first prints and added tone blocks to some prints first produced for monochrome printing, swiftly followed by Hans Burgkmair the Elder. The
formschneider Woodcut is a relief printing technique in printmaking Printmaking is the process of creating work of art, artworks by printing, normally on paper, but also on fabric, wood, metal, and other surfaces. "Traditional printmaking" normally c ...
or block-cutter who worked in the press of Johannes Schott in
Strasbourg Strasbourg (, , ; german: Straßburg ; gsw, label=Bas Rhin Alsatian dialect, Alsatian, Strossburi , gsw, label=Haut Rhin Alsatian dialect, Alsatian, Strossburig ) is the Prefectures in France, prefecture and largest city of the Grand Est Re ...
is claimed to be the first one to achieve chiaroscuro woodcuts with three blocks. Despite
Vasari Giorgio Vasari (, also , ; 30 July 1511 – 27 June 1574) was an Italian Renaissance Master, who worked as a painter, architect, engineer, writer, and historian, who is best known for his work ''The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculpt ...
's claim for Italian precedence in
Ugo da Carpi Ugo da Carpi ( – ) was an Italian Printmaking, printmaker active between 1502 and 1532 in the cities of Venice, Rome and Bologna. He is known for his technical and stylistic contributions to the chiaroscuro woodcut, a printmaking technique ...
, it is clear that his, the first Italian examples, date to around 1516 But other sources suggest, the first chiaroscuro woodcut to be the ''Triumph of Julius Caesar'', which was created by
Andrea Mantegna Andrea Mantegna (, , ; September 13, 1506) was an Italian painter, a student of Roman archeology, and son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g. by lowering the horizon in ord ...
, an Italian painter, between 1470 and 1500. Another view states that: "Lucas Cranach backdated two of his works in an attempt to grab the glory" and that the technique was invented "in all probability" by Burgkmair "who was commissioned by the emperor Maximilian to find a cheap and effective way of getting the imperial image widely disseminated as he needed to drum up money and support for a crusade". Other
printmaker Printmaking is the process of creating work of art, artworks by printing, normally on paper, but also on fabric, wood, metal, and other surfaces. "Traditional printmaking" normally covers only the process of creating prints using a hand proce ...
s who have used this technique include Hans Wechtlin,
Hans Baldung Grien Hans Baldung (1484 or 1485 – September 1545), called Hans Baldung Grien, (being an early nickname, because of his predilection for the colour green), was a painter, printmaking, printer, engraver, draftsman, and stained glass artist, who was ...
, and
Parmigianino Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (11 January 150324 August 1540), also known as Francesco Mazzola or, more commonly, as Parmigianino (, , ; "the little one from Parma"), was an Italians, Italian Mannerism, Mannerist painter and printmaker active i ...
. In Germany, the technique achieved its greatest popularity around 1520, but it was used in Italy throughout the sixteenth century. Later artists such as Goltzius sometimes made use of it. In most German two-block prints, the keyblock (or "line block") was printed in black and the tone block or blocks had flat areas of colour. In Italy, chiaroscuro woodcuts were produced without keyblocks to achieve a very different effect.


Compositional chiaroscuro to Caravaggio

Manuscript illumination was, as in many areas, especially experimental in attempting ambitious lighting effects since the results were not for public display. The development of compositional chiaroscuro received a considerable impetus in northern Europe from the vision of the
Nativity of Jesus The nativity of Jesus, nativity of Christ, birth of Jesus or birth of Christ is described in the biblical gospels of Gospel of Luke, Luke and Gospel of Matthew, Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judaea (Roman ...
of Saint
Bridget of Sweden Bridget of Sweden (c. 1303 – 23 July 1373) born as Birgitta Birgersdotter, also Birgitta of Vadstena, or Saint Birgitta ( sv, heliga Birgitta), was a Mysticism, mystic and a saint, and she was also the founder of the Bridgettines nuns and mon ...
, a very popular mystic. She described the infant Jesus as emitting light; depictions increasingly reduced other light sources in the scene to emphasize this effect, and the Nativity remained very commonly treated with chiaroscuro through to the Baroque.
Hugo van der Goes Hugo van der Goes (c. 1430/1440 – 1482) was one of the most significant and original Early Netherlandish painting, Flemish painters of the late 15th century. Van der Goes was an important painter of altarpieces as well as portraits. He introduce ...
and his followers painted many scenes lit only by candle or the divine light from the infant Christ. As with some later painters, in their hands the effect was of stillness and calm rather than the drama with which it would be used during the Baroque. Strong chiaroscuro became a popular effect during the sixteenth century in
Mannerism Mannerism, which may also be known as Late Renaissance, is a Style (visual arts), style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, spreading by about 1530 and lasting until about the end of the 1 ...
and
Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a Style (visual arts), style of Baroque architecture, architecture, Baroque music, music, Baroque dance, dance, Baroque painting, painting, Baroque sculpture, sculpture, poetry, and other arts that flourished in Europe from ...
art. Divine light continued to illuminate, often rather inadequately, the compositions of
Tintoretto Tintoretto ( , , ; born Jacopo Robusti; late September or early October 1518Bernari and de Vecchi 1970, p. 83.31 May 1594) was an Italians, Italian painter identified with the Venetian school (art), Venetian school. His contemporaries both admir ...
, Veronese, and their many followers. The use of dark subjects dramatically lit by a shaft of light from a single constricted and often unseen source, was a compositional device developed by
Ugo da Carpi Ugo da Carpi ( – ) was an Italian Printmaking, printmaker active between 1502 and 1532 in the cities of Venice, Rome and Bologna. He is known for his technical and stylistic contributions to the chiaroscuro woodcut, a printmaking technique ...
(c. 1455 – c. 1523),
Giovanni Baglione Giovanni Baglione (1566 – 30 December 1643) was an Italian Mannerism, Late Mannerist and Baroque, Early Baroque painter and art historian. He is best remembered for his acrimonious and damaging involvement with the slightly younger arti ...
(1566–1643), and
Caravaggio Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio, known as simply Caravaggio (, , ; 29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610), was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life. During the final four years of hi ...
(1571–1610), the last of whom was crucial in developing the style of
tenebrism Tenebrism, from Italian ' ("dark, gloomy, mysterious"), also occasionally called dramatic illumination, is a style of painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "mat ...
, where dramatic chiaroscuro becomes a dominant stylistic device.


17th and 18th centuries

Tenebrism was especially practiced in
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = ''Plus ultra'' (Latin)(English: "Further Beyond") , national_anthem = (English: "Royal March") , i ...
and the Spanish-ruled Kingdom of
Naples Naples (; it, Napoli ; nap, Napule ), from grc, Νεάπολις, Neápolis, lit=new city. is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest city of Italy, after Rome and Milan, with a population of 909,048 within the city's adminis ...
, by
Jusepe de Ribera Jusepe de Ribera (1591 – 1652) was a painter and Printmaking, printmaker, who along with Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and the singular Diego Velázquez, are regarded as the major artists of Spanish Baroque painting. ...
and his followers.
Adam Elsheimer __NOTOC__ Adam Elsheimer (18 March 1578 – 11 December 1610) was a German artist working in Rome, who died at only thirty-two, but was very influential in the early 17th century in the field of Baroque painting Baroque painting is th ...
(1578–1610), a German artist living in Rome, produced several night scenes lit mainly by fire, and sometimes moonlight. Unlike Caravaggio's, his dark areas contain very subtle detail and interest. The influences of Caravaggio and Elsheimer were strong on
Peter Paul Rubens Sir Peter Paul Rubens (; ; 28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640) was a Flemish people, Flemish artist and diplomat from the Duchy of Brabant in the Southern Netherlands (modern-day Kingdom of Belgium, Belgium). He is considered the most influential art ...
, who exploited their respective approaches to tenebrosity for dramatic effect in paintings such as '' The Raising of the Cross'' (1610–1611). Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1656), a Baroque artist who was a follower of Caravaggio, was also an outstanding exponent of tenebrism and chiaroscuro. A particular genre that developed was the nocturnal scene lit by candlelight, which looked back to earlier northern artists such as Geertgen tot Sint Jans and more immediately, to the innovations of Caravaggio and Elsheimer. This theme played out with many artists from the
Low Countries The term Low Countries, also known as the Low Lands ( nl, de Lage Landen, french: les Pays-Bas, lb, déi Niddereg Lännereien) and historically called the Netherlands ( nl, de Nederlanden), Flanders, or Belgica, is a coastal lowland region in N ...
in the first few decades of the seventeenth century, where it became associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti such as
Gerrit van Honthorst Gerard van Honthorst (Dutch: ''Gerrit van Honthorst''; 4 November 1592 – 27 April 1656) was a Dutch Golden Age painter Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17 ...
and Dirck van Baburen, and with Flemish Baroque painters such as
Jacob Jordaens Jacob (Jacques) Jordaens (19 May 1593 – 18 October 1678) was a Flemish Flemish (''Vlaams'') is a Low Franconian dialect cluster of the Dutch language. It is sometimes referred to as Flemish Dutch (), Belgian Dutch ( ), or Southern Dutch ...
.
Rembrandt van Rijn Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (, ; 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669), usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and Drawing, draughtsman. An innovative and prolific Old Masters, master in three art medi ...
's (1606–1669) early works from the 1620s also adopted the single-candle light source. The nocturnal candle-lit scene re-emerged in the
Dutch Republic The United Provinces of the Netherlands, also known as the (Seven) United Provinces, officially as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Dutch language, Dutch: ''Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden''), and commonly referred to in ...
in the mid-seventeenth century on a smaller scale in the works of
fijnschilder {{Short description, 17th-century Dutch artistic movement The Fijnschilders (literally "fine-painters"), also called the Leiden Fijnschilders ('Leidse Fijnschilders'), were Dutch Golden Age painting, Dutch Golden Age painters who, from about 1630 t ...
s such as
Gerrit Dou Gerrit Dou (7 April 1613 – 9 February 1675), also known as Gerard Douw or Dow, was a Dutch Golden Age painting, Dutch Golden Age painter, whose small, highly polished paintings are typical of the Leiden fijnschilders. He specialised in genre sce ...
and Gottfried Schalken. Rembrandt's own interest in effects of darkness shifted in his mature works. He relied less on the sharp contrasts of light and dark that marked the Italian influences of the earlier generation, a factor found in his mid-seventeenth-century etchings. In that medium he shared many similarities with his contemporary in Italy,
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (baptized 23 March 16095 May 1664) was an Italian Baroque painter, printmaker and draftsman, of the Genoese school (painting), Genoese school. He is best known now for his etchings, and as the inventor of the printm ...
, whose work in
printmaking Printmaking is the process of creating work of art, artworks by printing, normally on paper, but also on fabric, wood, metal, and other surfaces. "Traditional printmaking" normally covers only the process of creating prints using a hand proce ...
led him to invent the
monotype Monotyping is a type of printmaking Printmaking is the process of creating work of art, artworks by printing, normally on paper, but also on fabric, wood, metal, and other surfaces. "Traditional printmaking" normally covers only the proce ...
. Outside the Low Countries, artists such as Georges de La Tour and
Trophime Bigot Trophime Bigot (1579–1650), also known as Théophile Bigot, Teofili Trufemondi, the Candlelight Master (''Maître à la Chandelle''), was a French painter of the Baroque art, Baroque era, active in Rome and his native Provence. Bigot was born ...
in France and
Joseph Wright of Derby Joseph Wright (3 September 1734 – 29 August 1797), styled Joseph Wright of Derby, was an English landscape and portrait painter. He has been acclaimed as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution". Wr ...
in England, carried on with such strong, but graduated, candlelight chiaroscuro.
Watteau Jean-Antoine Watteau (, , ; baptised October 10, 1684died July 18, 1721) Alsavailablevia Oxford Art Online (subscription needed). was a French Painting, painter and Drawing, draughtsman whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colou ...
used a gentle chiaroscuro in the leafy backgrounds of his fêtes galantes, and this was continued in paintings by many French artists, notably Fragonard. At the end of the century Fuseli and others used a heavier chiaroscuro for romantic effect, as did Delacroix and others in the nineteenth century.


Use of the term

The French use of the term, clair-obscur, was introduced by the seventeenth-century art-critic Roger de Piles in the course of a famous argument (''Débat sur le coloris''), on the relative merits of drawing and colour in painting (his ''Dialogues sur le coloris'', 1673, was a key contribution to the ''Débat''). In English, the Italian term has been usedoriginally as and since at least the late seventeenth century. The term is less frequently used of art after the late nineteenth century, although the
Expressionist Expressionism is a Modernism, modernist art movement, movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Northern Europe around the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspe ...
and other modern movements make great use of the effect. Especially since the strong twentieth-century rise in the reputation of Caravaggio, in non-specialist use the term is mainly used for strong chiaroscuro effects such as his, or Rembrandt's. As the
Tate Tate is an institution that houses, in a network of four art galleries, the United Kingdom's national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. It is not a government institution, but its main sponsor is the U ...
puts it: "Chiaroscuro is generally only remarked upon when it is a particularly prominent feature of the work, usually when the artist is using extreme contrasts of light and shade". Photography and cinema also have adopted the term. For the history of the term, see René Verbraeken, ''Clair-obscur, histoire d’un mot'' (Nogent-le-Roi, 1979).


Cinema and photography

''Chiaroscuro'' is used in cinematography for extreme
low key Low key as a term used in describing paintings Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "matrix" or "support"). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but ...
and high-contrast lighting to create distinct areas of light and darkness in films, especially in black and white films. Classic examples are '' The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'' (1920), ''
Nosferatu ''Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror'' (German: ''Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens'') is a 1922 Silent film, silent German Expressionism (cinema), German Expressionist horror film directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck as Count ...
'' (1922), ''
Metropolis A metropolis () is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. A big ci ...
'' (1927) '' The Hunchback of Notre Dame'' (1939), '' The Devil and Daniel Webster'' (1941), and the black and white scenes in
Andrei Tarkovsky Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky ( rus, Андрей Арсеньевич Тарковский, p=ɐnˈdrʲej ɐrˈsʲenʲjɪvʲɪtɕ tɐrˈkofskʲɪj; 4 April 1932 – 29 December 1986) was a Russian filmmaker. Widely considered one of the greates ...
's ''
Stalker Stalking is unwanted and/or repeated surveillance by an individual or group toward another person. Stalking behaviors are interrelated to harassment Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of wikt:offensive, offensive nature. It is ...
'' (1979). For example, in ''
Metropolis A metropolis () is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. A big ci ...
'', chiaroscuro lighting creates contrast between light and dark mise-en-scene and figures. The effect highlights the differences between the capitalist elite and the workers. In
photography Photography is the visual art, art, application, and practice of creating durable images by recording light, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It i ...
, chiaroscuro can be achieved by using "
Rembrandt lighting Rembrandt lighting is a standard lighting Lighting or illumination is the deliberate use of light to achieve practical or aesthetic effects. Lighting includes the use of both artificial light sources like lamps and light fixtures, as wel ...
". In more highly developed photographic processes, the technique may be termed "ambient/natural lighting", although when done so for the effect, the look is artificial and not generally documentary in nature. In particular, Bill Henson along with others, such as W. Eugene Smith, Josef Koudelka,
Garry Winogrand Garry Winogrand (January 14, 1928 – March 19, 1984) was an American Street photography, street photographer, known for his portrayal of U.S. life and its social issues, in the mid-20th century. Photography curator, historian, and critic John Sz ...
,
Lothar Wolleh Lothar Wolleh (January 20, 1930 – September 28, 1979) was a well-known German photographer. Until the end of the sixties, Lothar Wolleh worked as a commercial photographer. He made portraits of international contemporary painters, sculptors ...
,
Annie Leibovitz Anna-Lou Leibovitz ( ; born October 2, 1949) is an American portrait photographer best known for her engaging portraits, particularly of celebrities, which often feature subjects in intimate settings and poses. Leibovitz's Polaroid photo of J ...
, Floria Sigismondi, and Ralph Gibson may be considered some of the modern masters of chiaroscuro in documentary photography. Perhaps the most direct use of chiaroscuro in filmmaking is
Stanley Kubrick Stanley Kubrick (; July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and photographer. Widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, his films, almost all of which are adaptations of nove ...
's 1975 film ''
Barry Lyndon ''Barry Lyndon'' is a 1975 period drama film written, directed, and produced by Stanley Kubrick, based on the 1844 novel '' The Luck of Barry Lyndon'' by William Makepeace Thackeray. Starring Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, ...
''."Victorian Studies Bulletin". Northeast Victorian Studies Association, v. 9–11, 1985. 1984 When informed that no lens then had a sufficiently wide aperture to shoot a costume drama set in grand palaces using only candlelight, Kubrick bought and retrofitted a special lens for the purpose: a modified Mitchell BNC camera and a Zeiss lens manufactured for the rigors of space photography, with a maximum aperture of f/0.7. The natural, unaugmented lighting of the sets in the film exemplified low-key, natural lighting in filmwork at its most extreme, outside of the Eastern European/Soviet filmmaking tradition (itself exemplified by the harsh low-key lighting style employed by Soviet filmmaker
Sergei Eisenstein Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (russian: Сергей Михайлович Эйзенштейн, p=sʲɪrˈɡʲej mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪtɕ ɪjzʲɪnˈʂtʲejn, 2=Sergey Mikhaylovich Eyzenshteyn; 11 February 1948) was a Soviet film director, screenw ...
).
Sven Nykvist Sven Vilhem Nykvist (; 3 December 1922 – 20 September 2006) was a Swedes, Swedish cinematographer. He worked on over 120 films, but is known especially for his work with director Ingmar Bergman. He won Academy Awards for his work on two Berg ...
, the longtime collaborator of
Ingmar Bergman Ernst Ingmar Bergman (14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007) was a Swedish film director, screenwriter, Film producer, producer and playwright. Widely considered one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time, his films are known ...
, also informed much of his photography with chiaroscuro realism, as did
Gregg Toland Gregg Wesley Toland, A.S.C. (May 29, 1904 – September 28, 1948) was an American cinematographer known for his innovative use of techniques such as deep focus, examples of which can be found in his work on Orson Welles' '' Citizen Kane' ...
, who influenced such cinematographers as László Kovács,
Vilmos Zsigmond Vilmos Zsigmond ASC (; June 16, 1930 – January 1, 2016) was a Hungarian-American cinematographer The cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the person responsible for the photographing or recording ...
, and
Vittorio Storaro Vittorio Storaro, American Society of Cinematographers, A.S.C., A.I.C. (born 24 June 1940) is an Italian cinematographer widely recognized as one of the best and most influential in cinema history, for his work on numerous classic films including ...
with his use of deep and selective focus augmented with strong horizon-level key lighting penetrating through windows and doorways. Much of the celebrated
film noir Film noir (; ) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Cinema of the United States, Hollywood Crime film, crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and motivations. The 1940s and 1950s are generally regarde ...
tradition relies on techniques related to chiaroscuro that Toland perfected in the early 1930s (though high-key lighting, stage lighting, frontal lighting, and other film noir effects are interspersed in ways that diminish the chiaroscuro claim).


See also

* Light-and-shade watermark *
Tenebrism Tenebrism, from Italian ' ("dark, gloomy, mysterious"), also occasionally called dramatic illumination, is a style of painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "mat ...


Gallery

Chiaroscuro in modelling; paintings File:Fra Angelico 005.jpg,
Fra Angelico Fra Angelico (born Guido di Pietro; February 18, 1455) was an Italians, Italian List of Italian painters, painter of the Early Italian Renaissance, Renaissance, described by Giorgio Vasari, Vasari in his ''Lives of the Artists'' as having "a r ...
c. 1450 uses chiaroscuro modelling in all elements of the painting File:Sandro Botticelli 054.jpg, ''
Saint Sebastian Saint Sebastian (in Latin: ''Sebastianus''; Narbonne, Narbo, Gallia Narbonensis, Roman Empire c. AD 255 – Rome, Roman Italy, Italia, Roman Empire c. AD 288) was an early Christianity, Christian saint and martyr. According to traditional beli ...
'' by
Botticelli Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi ( – May 17, 1510), known as Sandro Botticelli (, ), was an Italian Renaissance painting, Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. Botticelli's posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th cent ...
, 1474 File:Retrato de Juan Pareja, by Diego Velázquez.jpg, '' Portrait of Juan de Pareja'', c. 1650 by
Diego Velázquez Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (baptized June 6, 1599August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the Noble court, court of King Philip IV of Spain, Philip IV of Spain and Portugal, and of the Spanish Golden Age. He was ...
, uses subtle highlights and shading on the face and clothes File:Johannes Vermeer - Het melkmeisje - Google Art Project.jpg, '' The Milkmaid'' c. 1658, by
Johannes Vermeer Johannes Vermeer ( , , #Pronunciation of name, see below; also known as Jan Vermeer; October 1632 – 15 December 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period Painting, painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class, middle-class life. ...
, whose use of light to model throughout his compositions is exceptionally complex and delicate
Chiaroscuro in modelling; prints and drawings File:Meckenem.jpg, Delicate engraved lines of hatching and cross-hatching, not all distinguishable in reproduction, are used to model the faces and clothes in this late-fifteenth-century
engraving Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a Burin (engraving), burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or Glass engraving, glass ...
File:Herkules und Antäus (Mantegna).jpg, Another fifteenth-century engraving showing highlights and shading, all in lines in the original, used to depict volume File:Study of Arms and Hands.jpg, Drawing by
Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 14522 May 1519) was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance who was active as a painter, Drawing, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, and architect. While his fame initially res ...
File:Study for the Kneeling Leda.jpg, Another study by Leonardo, where the linear make-up of the shading is easily seen in reproduction
Chiaroscuro as a major element in composition: painting File:Domenico Beccafumi 070.jpg, ''
Annunciation The Annunciation (from Latin '), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the biblical tale of the announcement by the arch ...
'' by Domenico Beccafumi, 1545–46 File:El Greco - Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Company of Ape and Fool (Fábula).JPG, ''Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Company of Ape and Fool'' by
El Greco Domḗnikos Theotokópoulos ( el, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος ; 1 October 1541 7 April 1614), most widely known as El Greco ("The Greek"), was a Greek painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El G ...
, 1589–1592 File:Caravaggio-Crucifixion of Peter.jpg, '' Crucifixion of St. Peter'' by
Caravaggio Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio, known as simply Caravaggio (, , ; 29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610), was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life. During the final four years of hi ...
, 1600 File:Adam Elsheimer - Die Flucht nach Ägypten (Alte Pinakothek) 2.jpg, ''The Flight to Egypt'' by
Adam Elsheimer __NOTOC__ Adam Elsheimer (18 March 1578 – 11 December 1610) was a German artist working in Rome, who died at only thirty-two, but was very influential in the early 17th century in the field of Baroque painting Baroque painting is th ...
, 1609 File:Rembrandt van Rijn "Petrus in de gevangenis" (St. Peter in prison).jpg, ''St. Peter in prison'' by
Rembrandt Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (, ; 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669), usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and Drawing, draughtsman. An innovative and prolific Old Masters, master in three art medi ...
, 1631 File:Judith Leyster The Proposition.jpg, '' The Proposition'' by Judith Leyster, 1631 File:Georges de La Tour 007.jpg, '' Magdalene with the Smoking Flame'', by Georges de La Tour, c. 1640 File:Bal26151-Jan-Both.jpg, Landscape chiaroscuro,
Jan Both Jan Dirksz Both (between 1610 and 1618 - August 9, 1652) was a Dutch painter Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "matrix" or "support"). The medium is commonly appli ...
, 1646 File:Gerard van Honthorst 002.jpg, '' Adoration of the Shepherds'' by
Matthias Stom Matthias Stom or Matthias Stomer (c. 1600 – after 1652) was a Dutch, or possibly Flemish, Painting, painter who is only known for the works he produced during his residence in Italy. He was influenced by the work of non-Italian followers of Cara ...
, mid-17th century File:Antoine Watteau - La Partie carrée.jpg,
Antoine Watteau Jean-Antoine Watteau (, , ; baptised October 10, 1684died July 18, 1721) Alsavailablevia Oxford Art Online (subscription needed). was a French Painting, painter and Drawing, draughtsman whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colou ...
– ''La Partie carrée'', c. 1713 File:An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768.jpg, ''
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump ''An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump'' is a 1768 Oil painting, oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, one of a number of candlelit scenes that Wright painted during the 1760s. The painting departed from convention of the time by ...
'' by
Joseph Wright of Derby Joseph Wright (3 September 1734 – 29 August 1797), styled Joseph Wright of Derby, was an English landscape and portrait painter. He has been acclaimed as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution". Wr ...
, 1768 File:Jean-Honoré Fragonard 009.jpg, '' The Bolt'' by
Jean-Honoré Fragonard Jean-Honoré Fragonard (; 5 April 1732 (birth/baptism certificate) – 22 August 1806) was a French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism. One of the most prolific art ...
, c. 1777 File:Goya Christ.jpg, ''Christ on the Mount of Olives'' by
Francisco Goya Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (; ; 30 March 174616 April 1828) was a Spanish Romanticism, romantic painter and Printmaking, printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His p ...
, 1819
Chiaroscuro as a major element in composition: photography File:Golden Retriever Carlos im Wald (10580536693).jpg File:Bembel With Care (167479007).jpeg File:Woman (Imagicity 501).jpg Chiaroscuro faces File:José de Ribera 011.jpg, ''Saint Jerome'' by José de Ribera, 1652 File:Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn - An Old Man in Red.JPG, ''An Old Man in Red'', by
Rembrandt Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (, ; 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669), usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and Drawing, draughtsman. An innovative and prolific Old Masters, master in three art medi ...
, 1652–1654 File:The Knitting Woman painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.jpg, '' The Knitting Girl'' by
William-Adolphe Bouguereau William-Adolphe Bouguereau (; 30 November 1825 – 19 August 1905) was a French Academic art, academic painter. In his realistic genre paintings, he used mythological themes, making modern interpretations of Classicism, classical subjects, with a ...
, 1869 File:Millais - Self-Portrait.jpg, ''Self-Portrait'' by
John Everett Millais Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, ( , ; 8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896) was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was a child prodigy who, aged eleven, became the youngest s ...
, 1881
Chiaroscuro drawings and woodcuts File:Springinklee schmerzensmann.jpg, ''
Man of Sorrows Man of Sorrows, a biblical term, is paramount among the prefigurations of the Messiah In Abrahamic religions, a messiah or messias (; , ; , ; ) is a salvation, saviour or liberator of a group of people. The concepts of ''Messiah in Judaism, ...
'', chiaroscuro drawing on coloured paper, 1516, by Hans Springinklee File:William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Study of a Seated Veiled Female Figure (19th Century).png, A nineteenth-century version of the original type of chiaroscuro drawing, with coloured paper, white gouache highlights, and pencil shading File:5316 bassenge saturn.jpg,
Saturn Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius of about nine and a half times that of Earth. It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth; h ...
, anon. Italian, sixteenth-century?, Italian style chiaroscuro woodcut, with four blocks, but no real line block, and looking rather like a watercolour File:5049 bassenge chiaroscuro.jpg, Ludolph Buesinck, Aeneas carries his father, German style, with line block and brown tone block


Notes


References

*David Landau & Peter Parshall, ''The Renaissance Print'', pp. 179–202; 273–81 & passim; Yale, 1996,


External links


Chiaroscuro Woodcut from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art HistoryChiaroscuro woodcut
from Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas

{{Authority control Visual arts terminology Artistic techniques Italian words and phrases Composition in visual art Shadows