Chiaroscuro and Art

So what IS ‘Chiaroscuro’ in my self-assumed title of Chiaroscuro-Zeitgeist? That’s been a pertinent question.

According to Wikipedia,

“Chiaroscuro in art is “an Italian term which literally means ‘light-dark’. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted“, and this meaning has extended to other visual art such as photography and cinema.”

Our supposedly-omniscient, crowd-sourced site further mentions

“Chiaroscuro originated during the Renaissance as drawing on coloured paper, where the artist worked from the paper’s base tone towards light using white gouache, and towards dark using ink, bodycolor or watercolor.”


Rembrandt’s Self Potrait

This is one of my favorite paintings by Rembrandt. Rembrandt once said: de meeste en de natuurlijkste beweegelijkheid, translated as  the greatest and most natural movement, when asked about what he wanted to achieve with his art. His was the world where the divine and earthly seamlessly melded: a purpose that can be well served by the element we are discussing – Chiaroscuro. In his self-portrait made in 1628, Rembrandt has brought about a subtle interplay of light and shade, besides the soft tones he has used for his face. A masterpiece, undoubtedly!

Old Woman Cutting Her Nails by Rembrandt, 1658
St. Peter in Prison by Rembrandt, 1631

Joseph Wright

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768). Joseph Wright
A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery (1766). Joseph Wright


Saint Jerome Writing by Caravaggio, 1608
The Inspiration of St. Matthew by Caravaggio, 1602
The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio, 1601

To be continued…


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