Art Quiz: The Answer is Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro: In art, chiaroscuro is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.

My first attempts at chiaroscuro — using graphite — were done nearly five years ago. If you’re curious, you can look back and see them here. At the time I mentioned doing a series of one hundred chiaroscuro figure drawings. Although that would have been excellent practice, I never did complete that series.

With my limited knowledge of art, I had always believed that chiaroscuro was limited entirely to black and white, but that’s far from true. The technique has also been used by many artists to create strong contrasts in oil using a variety of colors. Good examples are works by Caravaggio — such as The Martyrdom of St. Ursula.



Another example is Sacred and Profane Love, painted by Giovanni Baglione.



The featured painting — Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Presence of Ape and Fool by El Greco — is also an example of the chiaroscuro technique in oil painting.

These paintings are impressive by their use of contrast between light and shadow. This is based on the idea that form is best revealed by showing how light falls upon it.

Usually when I read about a specific technique in art, I’m eager to try it out, to play with it and see what I might be able to do with it. In this instance, however, I’m not going to try using chiaroscuro for my oil painting. To me, it seems best suited to figures and still life painting, not so much a technique for landscape. There are some landscape paintings considered “chiaroscuro” — Chiaroscuro Landscapes with a Forgotten Dutch Master — and the chiaroscuro technique is popular for landscape photography. Overall, though, it’s not a technique I want to try at this time.

But maybe you’re interested in using chiaroscuro in your art. If so, you might find this link helpful:

Chiaroscuro in Painting – What It Is and How to Paint Your Own

So, maybe you’ll give it a try, and if you do, please let me know! I’d love to see your drawings and paintings.





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