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chiaroscuro (kee-ar-uh-SKYOOR-o) noun

The treatment of light and shade in a work of art, especially to give an illusion of depth.

Also known as claire-obscure.

[From Italian, from chiaro (clear, light) + oscuro (obscure, dark).]

"Besides their skill in capturing human emotions, another impressive aspect of Rembrandt's prints is their use of shadow and light and their mastery of chiaroscuro."
Alexandra Koroxenidis; Rembrandt's Power in Capturing Human Emotions; Kathimerini (Athens, Greece); Oct 25, 2004.

"The chiaroscuro caricatures of America drawn during a close and compelling election campaign suggest that the most pressing problem after the votes are cast will not be the litigious lawyers (are there any other kind?) but the lingering external preconceptions about the US that have hardly been given more colour and depth over the past few months."
Editorial: Polls Apart; The Times (London, UK); Nov 1, 2004.

See more usage examples of chiaroscuro in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

Everyone can be an artist. Some of us paint with words, others with musical notes. Some do it with equations while others use bricks and mortar. And some even do it with paints. No matter what medium we use, if we've poured our soul into it, the result is bound to be a masterpiece.

This week we feature words related to art made with paints and brushes and multimedia. These words describe concepts from the world of art but many of them can be used figuratively, as metaphors in contexts unrelated to art.

-Anu Garg


The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped. -Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher (1788-1860)

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