Chiaroscuro, in its most basic form, is a contrast of light and dark without regard of color. It is commonly used to give subjects of a painting or photograph three dimensions with light falling on the subject from a particular light source out of frame. Though this technique has existed for a long time, it became popularized in the western world during the Renaissance and early Baroque period by masters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Artists who used chiaroscuro during this time period used a dark background with the subject brightly lit. As seen below Rembrandt used a much more subtle form of chiaroscuro than Caravaggio.
Chiaroscuro is also commonly used today. An example of it is in low-key photography. Low-key photography, just like with Caravaggio and Rembrandt, uses dark backgrounds while illuminating the subject. The subject can be illuminated by either artificial or natural light. Low-key photography is also commonly black and white, though it does not have to be. Notable low-key photographers are Paul Strand, and Yousuf Karsh.
Overall, chiaroscuro is used to create a sense of drama and to draw the viewers eyes to the subject. These effects are not only wanted in paintings, and photography, but also film. Two films that utilized chiaroscuro to either set the tone or to draw attention to a certain subject is “The Godfather” and “Frankenweenie”.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Chiaroscuro.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Oct. 2015, www.britannica.com/art/chiaroscuro.
- “Chiaroscuro.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiaroscuro.
- Riojas, Esteban. “Film from a Clearer World.” Chiaroscuro in Film, fromaclearerworld.blogspot.com/2012/09/chiaroscuro-in-film.html