Chiaroscuro may date very far back indeed, but it was formally introduced as an art technique in the Renaissance. With its strong emphasis on light and contrasting darkness, it is effective in creating the illusion of both depth of an object and the space surrounding it. The technique has been used in drawing and painting for dramatic effects in portraiture in particular. E.g. having part of a person’s head hidden in darkness somehow stimulates our brain to imagine the other half quite vividly. Many artists have experimented with chiaroscuro and some end up mastering it. Notable examples were Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt.

Chiaroscuro is also known as clair-obscur in French, and claroscuro in Spanish.

See also Dutch Carravaggism, Macchia, and artist profile Thomas Kluge

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