chiar·​oscu·​ro | \ kē-ˌär-ə-ˈskyu̇r-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce chiaroscuro (audio) , -ˈsku̇r- \
plural chiaroscuros

Definition of chiaroscuro

1 : pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
2a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art The artist uses chiaroscuro to create the perception of depth in a two-dimensional work.
b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
3 : a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color also : a print made by this technique
4 : the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface a spotlight revealing a chiaroscuro of ridges and craters on a mountainside
5 : the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

Examples of chiaroscuro in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Finally, the sun broke through the gray clouds, casting the rows of Italian cypress into stark chiaroscuro. Matt Ortile, Condé Nast Traveler, 13 Dec. 2021 The cover displays a huge chiaroscuro headshot of Roger Moore looking devastatingly handsome. Washington Post, 1 Dec. 2021 Wright transforms Caravaggio’s theatrical chiaroscuro lighting technique, popularized in the 16th and 17th centuries as a religious simile for spiritual illumination, into a metaphor of rational enlightenment. Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2021 Knitted from a Japanese yarn with reflective properties, the emblematic pieces practically glow in Roversi’s chiaroscuro images. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, 1 July 2021 His canny placement of the camera for long shots and use of chiaroscuro lighting in close-ups make just about every scene, all of them filmed in widescreen, a cinematic study. David Mermelstein, WSJ, 8 June 2021 Among them was Rachel Ruysch, whose delicate, bountiful bouquets populate urns and dark niches—a play of chiaroscuro in the style of the times. Jessi Jezewska Stevens, The New Yorker, 8 May 2021 Four hundred years ago, Caravaggio revolutionized painting with a chiaroscuro style reflecting the splendor and squalor of Naples—brightness and light contrasted with the blackness of deep, menacing shadow. Francesco Lastrucci, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Feb. 2021 Shifting levels of brightness are key to reproducing the chiaroscuro of an image. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 11 Sep. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chiaroscuro.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of chiaroscuro

1686, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chiaroscuro

Italian, from chiaro clear, light + oscuro obscure, dark

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The first known use of chiaroscuro was in 1686

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Cite this Entry

“Chiaroscuro.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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