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chiaroscuro(kyärōsko͞o`rō) [Ital.,=light and dark], term once applied to an early method of printing woodcuts from several blocks and also to works in black and white or monotone. Today it is used loosely to refer to the distribution of light and dark in painting.
the distribution of light and shadow on an object, determined by the form and texture of the object’s surface and by the lighting. Chiaroscuro makes it possible for the eye to apprehend the volume and contours of the object.
In painting and graphic art, chiaroscuro is the distribution of colors or shades of color of varying brightness in such a way as to impart a sense of three-dimensionality to an object. Also suggested is an ambience of light and air. Gradations of chiaroscuro—from maximum brightness to deep shadow —depend on the nature of the lighting, the specific form and texture of the object, and atmospheric conditions. Painters made use of chiaroscuro as far back as antiquity. Its theory was developed by Renaissance masters, particularly by Leonardo da Vinci. Since the Renaissance, chiaroscuro has been widely used by artists as a means of emotional expressiveness.