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 Shifting levels of brightness are key to reproducing the chiaroscuro of an image. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Girl With a Pearl Earring," 11 Sep. 2020 Our real seders here in Berlin are typically less chiaroscuro, but no less crowded. Molly Crabapple, The New York Review of Books, "Passover 2020: Why Is This Year Different From All Other Years?," 7 Apr. 2020 Almost as notable is how the airplane’s gleaming wings and tail form a startlingly beautiful chiaroscuro composition. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Vitalina Varela’ Review: Death of a Longing, Long Misplaced," 26 Mar. 2020 But other choices pay off: Complementing the play’s chiaroscuro humor, Pei Lee’s medieval costumes have a semi-comic air, while Misha Kachman’s set is suitably stark. Celia Wren, Washington Post, "Coronavirus looms over this play set during a plague. But ‘The Amateurs’ speaks to timeless concerns.," 9 Mar. 2020 Caravaggio had twice spent time there, attracting followers to his dramatic chiaroscuro lighting technique, but Neapolitan art remained largely unremarkable. Judith H. Dobrzynski, WSJ, "Magisterial and Filled With Drama," 3 Jan. 2020 Their portraits showed us the power and grace of the dancer Herman Cornejo, Amy Schumer subverting the whole nude pregnant celebrity genre, Adam Driver and Keri Russell in a suitably moody chiaroscuro. Amanda Webster, New York Times, "Our Favorite Arts Photos of 2019," 26 Dec. 2019 Her timbre carried with it a sonic chiaroscuro: pure tones gleamed out of depth and shadow. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Shimmering Magnificence of Jessye Norman," 3 Oct. 2019 Her mother was gripping her hands, leaning over her body like a chiaroscuro, shooing my friend George and me out of the room. Deborah Copaken, The Atlantic, "The Glorious, Messy Life of Liz Wurtzel," 7 Jan. 2020

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.

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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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Time Traveler for chiaroscuro

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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 7 Mar. 2021.

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