ten·​e·​brism ˈte-nə-ˌbri-zəm How to pronounce tenebrism (audio)
often capitalized
: a style of painting especially associated with the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers in which most of the figures are engulfed in shadow but some are dramatically illuminated by a beam of light usually from an identifiable source
tenebrist noun or adjective often capitalized

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Combining tenebrism with real-life models, heightened naturalism and tight, tumultuous spaces, Caravaggio brought pictorial storytelling to an unprecedented pitch of intensity. Washington Post, 4 Nov. 2020

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

Word History


probably borrowed from Italian tenebrismo, from tenebroso tenebrous + -ism -ism

First Known Use

1954, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tenebrism was in 1954

Dictionary Entries Near tenebrism

Cite this Entry

“Tenebrism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenebrism. Accessed 28 Mar. 2023.

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