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[kee-ahr-uh-skyoo r-oh] /kiˌɑr əˈskyʊər oʊ/
noun, plural chiaroscuros.
the distribution of light and shade in a picture.
Painting. the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and shade, especially to enhance the delineation of character and for general dramatic effect:
Rembrandt is a master of chiaroscuro.
a woodcut print in which the colors are produced by the use of different blocks with different colors.
a sketch in light and shade.
1680-90; < Italian, equivalent to chiaro bright (< Latin clārus) + oscuro dark (< Latin obscūrus). See clear, obscure Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for chiaroscuro
  • Her realist scenes are made all the more dramatic by chiaroscuro.
  • His lighting heightens the chiaroscuro effect and brings out all the details of face, manner and clothes.
  • The political world is a picture with a lot of chiaroscuro.
  • The violently contrasted chiaroscuro effects and the thrust of the brushwork charge the scene with dramatic intensity.
  • The chiaroscuro concentrates the eye on particular parts of the composition.
  • But you can always count on fashion to come through in full chiaroscuro.
  • On this chiaroscuro record, a jury might so find but it also might find this to be a self-serving fiction.
  • The student will use chiaroscuro to create the illusion of form in a work of art.
  • It is upheld by columns, be- tween which are painted busts in chiaroscuro.
  • See chiaroscuro for a discussion of the uses of such contrasts in visual media.
British Dictionary definitions for chiaroscuro


noun (pl) -ros
the artistic distribution of light and dark masses in a picture
monochrome painting using light and dark only, as in grisaille
Derived Forms
chiaroscurist, noun
chiaroscurism, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Italian, from chiaroclear + oscuroobscure
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for chiaroscuro

1680s, "disposition of light and dark in a picture," literally "bright-dark," from Italian chiaro "clear, bright" (from Latin clarus; see clear (adj.)) + oscuro (from Latin obscurus; see obscure (adj.)). Related: Chiaroscurist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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