Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art
Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Company of Ape and Fool by El Greco
The Raphael painting illustrated, with light coming from the left, demonstrates both delicate modelling chiaroscuro to give volume to the body of the model, and strong chiaroscuro in the more common sense, in the contrast between the well-lit model and the very dark background of foliage. To further complicate matters, however, the compositional chiaroscuro of the contrast between model and background probably would not be described using this term, as the two elements are almost completely separated. The term is mostly used to describe compositions where at least some principal elements of the main composition show the transition between light and dark, as in the Baglioni and Geertgen tot Sint Jans paintings illustrated above and below.
Salvator Rosa, the 17th-century master’s painting depicts demonic figures and witchcraft rituals. Rosa was known to choose his own subjects in defiance to his patrons.
For example, in Metropolis, chiaroscuro lighting is used to create contrast between light and dark mise-en-scene and figures. The effect of this is primarily to highlight the differences between the capitalist elite and the workers.
But there is far more to it, as a current exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York makes clear. Picasso Black and White explores this artist’s lifelong interest in stripping colour out of painting: his attempt to replace sensual pleasure with intellectual design.
Hieronymus Bosch The Last Judgement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieronymus_Bosch
Salvator Rosa, Scene with Witches – Morning, 1645-1649 image via monsterbrains
Picasso’s cubist revolution before the first world war was a rejection of surfaces and their colours, a search for what lies beneath the conventional, pretty pictures of art. In the so-called “analytical” phase of cubism, he almost abolished colour. His most profound paintings from this period lead the eye into a brown and black labyrinth, where reality must be relearned from the inside out. That radical search for the hidden structure of the world is at the heart of Picasso’s enterprise.
Outside the Low Countries, artists such as Georges de La Tour and Trophime Bigot in France and Joseph Wright of Derby in England, carried on with such strong, but graduated, candlelight chiaroscuro. Watteau used a gentle chiaroscuro in the leafy backgrounds of his fêtes galantes, and this was continued in paintings by many French artists, notably Fragonard. At the end of the century Fuseli and others used a heavier chiaroscuro for romantic effect, as did Delacroix and others in the nineteenth century.
Peter Paul Rubens’s The Elevation of the Cross (1610–1611) is modelled with dynamic chiaroscuro.
Guernica is in black and white because it is digging into the truth behind pictures. A picture, in colours, is to be looked at. Picasso in Guernica does not want us to passively look, but to imagine this terrible moment from the inside. Colours let us off lightly; black and white forces us to think. Picasso is nothing if not a thinker.
Christ at Rest, by Hans Holbein the Younger, a chiaroscuro drawing using pen and ink and brush, washes, white heightening, on ochre prepared paper
A particular genre that developed was the nocturnal scene lit by candlelight, which looked back to earlier northern artists such as Geertgen tot Sint Jans and more immediately, to the innovations of Caravaggio and Elsheimer. This theme played out with many artists from the Low Countries in the first few decades of the seventeenth century, where it became associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti such as Gerrit van Honthorst and Dirck van Baburen, and with Flemish Baroque painters such as Jacob Jordaens. Rembrandt van Rijn’s (1606-1669) early works from the 1620s also adopted the single-candle light source. The nocturnal candle-lit scene re-emerged in the Dutch Republic in the mid-seventeenth century on a smaller scale in the works of fijnschilders such as Gerrit Dou and Gottfried Schalken.
Chiaroscuro modelling now is taken for granted, but had some opponents; the English portrait miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard cautioned in his treatise on painting against all but the minimal use we see in his works, reflecting the views of his patron Queen Elizabeth I of England: “seeing that best to show oneself needeth no shadow of place but rather the open light… Her Majesty… chose her place to sit for that purpose in the open alley of a goodly garden, where no tree was near, nor any shadow at all…”
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1480-1505, oil
(13×19) Hieronymus Bosch The Garden of Earthly Delights Hell Art Print Poster
The underlying principle is that solidity of form is best achieved by the light falling against it. Artists known for developing the technique include Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. It is a mainstay of black and white and low-key photography. It is one of the modes of painting colour in Renaissance art (alongside cangiante, sfumato and unione).
The more technical use of the term chiaroscuro is the effect of light modelling in painting, drawing, or printmaking, where three-dimensional volume is suggested by the value gradation of colour and the analytical division of light and shadow shapes—often called “shading”. The invention of these effects in the West, “skiagraphia” or “shadow-painting” to the Ancient Greeks, traditionally was ascribed to the famous Athenian painter of the fifth century BC, Apollodoros. Although few Ancient Greek paintings survive, their understanding of the effect of light modelling still may be seen in the late-fourth-century BC mosaics of Pella, Macedonia, in particular the Stag Hunt Mosaic, in the House of the Abduction of Helen, inscribed gnosis epoesen, or ‘knowledge did it’.
Strong chiaroscuro became a popular effect during the sixteenth century in Mannerism and Baroque art. Divine light continued to illuminate, often rather inadequately, the compositions of Tintoretto, Veronese, and their many followers. The use of dark subjects dramatically lit by a shaft of light from a single constricted and often unseen source, was a compositional device developed by Ugo da Carpi (c. 1455–c.1523), Giovanni Baglione (1566–1643), and Caravaggio (1571–1610), the last of whom was crucial in developing the style of tenebrism, where dramatic chiaroscuro becomes a dominant stylistic device.
According to the theory of the art historian Marcia B. Hall, which has gained considerable acceptance, chiaroscuro is one of four modes of painting colours available to Italian High Renaissance painters, along with cangiante, sfumato and unione.
Detail of “La Fornarina” by Raphael, shows delicate modelling chiaroscuro in the body of the model, for example in the shoulder, breast, and arm on the right
Ludolph Buesinck, Aeneas carries his father, German style, with line block and brown tone block
David Landau & Peter Parshall, The Renaissance Print, pp. 179–202; 273-81 & passim; Yale, 1996, ISBN 0-300-06883-2
The golden age of the renaissance brought with it many positive societal developments and a renewed focus on creating art and craft. Even among this progress the mystery and theater of great dark art was not lost to time. Many artists and craftsman refused to create only what their patrons expected, in fact many showed that art could be used for so much more deep inquiry.
Chiaroscuro (English: /kiˌɑːrəˈskjʊəroʊ/; Italian: [ˌkjaroˈskuːro]; Italian for light-dark), in art, is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures. Similar effects in cinema and photography also are called chiaroscuro.
Delicate engraved lines of hatching and cross-hatching, not all distinguishable in reproduction, are used to model the faces and clothes in this late-fifteenth-century engraving
Bone and shadow … a detail from Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Photograph: Barney Burstein/Corbis
1 History 1.1 Origin in the chiaroscuro drawing 1.2 Chiaroscuro modelling 1.3 Chiaroscuro woodcuts 1.4 Compositional chiaroscuro to Caravaggio 1.5 17th and 18th centuries 2 Use of the term 3 Cinema and photography 4 Gallery 5 Notes 6 References 7 External links
Another study by Leonardo, where the linear make-up of the shading is easily seen in reproduction
In photography, chiaroscuro can be achieved with the use of “Rembrandt lighting”. In more highly developed photographic processes, this technique also may be termed “ambient/natural lighting”, although when done so for the effect, the look is artificial and not generally documentary in nature. In particular, Bill Henson along with others, such as W. Eugene Smith, Josef Koudelka, Garry Winogrand, Lothar Wolleh, Annie Leibovitz, Floria Sigismondi, and Ralph Gibson may be considered some of the modern masters of chiaroscuro in documentary photography.
In the 20th century, Picasso played Michelangelo to Matisse’s Titian. The wild colours of Matisse express everything in imaginative hues. Matisse is a god of colour. Picasso, by contrast, argued that colour is secondary in painting. For him, the structure of things is bone and shadow.
The technique also survived in rather crude standardized form in Byzantine art and was refined again in the Middle Ages to become standard by the early fifteenth-century in painting and manuscript illumination in Italy and Flanders, and then spread to all Western art.
Pablo Picasso painted his most famous picture in black and white. Guernica denounces a bloody attack without ever using the red of blood. Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece, protesting the bombing of a Basque town in the Spanish civil war, is a monochrome epic of blacks, whites and shades of grey. Why did he paint it like this?
Pieter Bruegel – The Triumph of Death, Canvas Art Print by YCC, Size 24×36, Non-Canvas Poster Print
Tue 16 Oct 2012 12.43 BST First published on Tue 16 Oct 2012 12.43 BST
Especially since the strong twentieth-century rise in the reputation of Caravaggio, in non-specialist use the term is mainly used for strong chiaroscuro effects such as his, or Rembrandt’s. As the Tate puts it: “Chiaroscuro is generally only remarked upon when it is a particularly prominent feature of the work, usually when the artist is using extreme contrasts of light and shade”. Photography and cinema also have adopted the term. For the history of the term, see René Verbraeken, Clair-obscur, histoire d’un mot (Nogent-le-Roi, 1979).
Sven Nykvist, the longtime collaborator of Ingmar Bergman, also informed much of his photography with chiaroscuro realism, as did Gregg Toland, who influenced such cinematographers as László Kovács, Vilmos Zsigmond, and Vittorio Storaro with his use of deep and selective focus augmented with strong horizon-level key lighting penetrating through windows and doorways. Much of the celebrated film noir tradition relies on techniques Toland perfected in the early thirties that are related to chiaroscuro (though high-key lighting, stage lighting, frontal lighting, and other effects are interspersed in ways that diminish the chiaroscuro claim).
Perhaps the most direct intended use of chiaroscuro in filmmaking would be Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. When informed that no lens currently had a wide enough aperture to shoot a costume drama set in grand palaces using only candlelight, Kubrick bought and retrofitted a special lens for these purposes: a modified Mitchell BNC camera and a Zeiss lens manufactured for the rigors of space photography, with a maximum aperture of f/.7. The naturally unaugmented lighting situations in the film exemplified low-key, natural lighting in filmwork at its most extreme outside of the Eastern European/Soviet filmmaking tradition (itself exemplified by the harsh low-key lighting style employed by Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein).
The French use of the term, clair-obscur, was introduced by the seventeenth-century art-critic Roger de Piles in the course of a famous argument (Débat sur le coloris), on the relative merits of drawing and colour in painting (his Dialogues sur le coloris, 1673, was a key contribution to the Débat).
Further specialized uses of the term include chiaroscuro woodcut for coloured woodcuts printed with different blocks, each using a different coloured ink; and chiaroscuro drawing for drawings on coloured paper in a dark medium with white highlighting. Chiaroscuro is a mainstay of black and white photography.
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Still from Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, some of which was shot using only candlelight
In English, the Italian term has been used since at least the late seventeenth century. The term is less frequently used of art after the late nineteenth century, although the Expressionist and other modern movements make great use of the effect.
Another fifteenth-century engraving showing highlights and shading, all in lines in the original, used to depict volume
At first sight, it may seem easy to explain. Some of the black-on-white lines in Guernica look like newsprint. When Picasso painted his visual cry of anguish, the bombing of Guernica by Hitler’s airforce in support of Spanish fascists on 26 April 1937 was news. Painting his instant response that same year in Paris, he was reporting current events. The newspaper grey of his painting (in an era before colour newsprint) stressed its immediacy.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieronymus_Bosch
Tenebrism was especially practiced in Spain and the Spanish-ruled Kingdom of Naples, by Jusepe de Ribera and his followers. Adam Elsheimer (1578–1610), a German artist living in Rome, produced several night scenes lit mainly by fire, and sometimes moonlight. Unlike Caravaggio’s, his dark areas contain very subtle detail and interest. The influences of Caravaggio and Elsheimer were strong on Peter Paul Rubens, who exploited their respective approaches to tenebrosity for dramatic effect in paintings such as The Raising of the Cross (1610–1611). Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), a Baroque artist who was a follower of Caravaggio, was also an outstanding exponent of tenebrism and chiaroscuro.
The Milkmaid, Vermeer’s use of light to model throughout his compositions is exceptionally complex and delicate
The Temptations of St Anthony by Jan Mandijn at Lille’s Palais des Beaux-Arts image via www.codart.com
Saturn, anon. Italian, sixteenth-century?, Italian style chiaroscuro woodcut, with four blocks, but no real line block, and looking rather like a watercolour
Other printmakers to use the technique include Hans Wechtlin, Hans Baldung Grien, and Parmigianino. In Germany the technique achieved its greatest popularity around 1520, but it was used in Italy throughout the sixteenth century. Later artists such as Goltzius sometimes made use of it. In most German two-block prints, the keyblock (or “line block”) was printed in black and the tone block or blocks had flat areas of colour. In Italy, chiaroscuro woodcuts were produced without keyblocks to achieve a very different effect.
Chiaroscuro woodcuts are old master prints in woodcut using two or more blocks printed in different colours; they do not necessarily feature strong contrasts of light and dark. They were first produced to achieve similar effects to chiaroscuro drawings. After some early experiments in book-printing, the true chiaroscuro woodcut conceived for two blocks was probably first invented by Lucas Cranach the Elder in Germany in 1508 or 1509, though he backdated some of his first prints and added tone blocks to some prints first produced for monochrome printing, swiftly followed by Hans Burgkmair the Elder. Despite Vasari’s claim for Italian precedence in Ugo da Carpi, it is clear that his, the first Italian examples, date to around 1516 But other sources suggest, the first chiaroscuro woodcut to be the Triumph of Julius Caesar, which was created by Andrea Mantegna, an Italian painter, between 1470 and 1500. Another view states that: “Lucas Cranach backdated two of his works in an attempt to grab the glory” and that the technique was invented “in all probability” by Burgkmair “who was commissioned by the emperor Maximilian to find a cheap and effective way of getting the imperial image widely disseminated as he needed to drum up money and support for a crusade”.
A nineteenth-century version of the original type of chiaroscuro drawing, with coloured paper, white gouache highlights, and pencil shading
Velázquez uses subtle highlights and shading on the face and clothes
Chiaroscuro also is used in cinematography to indicate extreme low key and high-contrast lighting to create distinct areas of light and darkness in films, especially in black and white films. Classic examples are The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922), Metropolis (1927) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and the black and white scenes in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979).
In drawings and prints, modelling chiaroscuro often is achieved by the use of hatching, or shading by parallel lines. Washes, stipple or dotting effects, and “surface tone” in printmaking are other techniques.
Fra Angelico c. 1450 uses chiaroscuro modelling in all elements of the painting
Salvator Rosa, Witches at Their Incantations image via http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/salvator-rosa-witches-at-their-incantations
Joseph Wright of Derby painted several large groups with strong chiaroscuro, such as The Orrery.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Tower of Babel image via Wikipedia
Mathis Gothart Grünewald The Mocking of Christ image via https://en.wikipedia.org
Design versus colour is an artistic debate that goes back to the Renaissance, and Picasso was firmly on the side of black and white
Caravaggio St. Jerome image via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Jerome_Writing
Man of Sorrows, chiaroscuro drawing on coloured paper, 1516, by Hans Springinklee
Artemesia Gentileschi Judith Beheading Holofernes 1613 Oil on Canvas Galleria degli Uffizi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_beheading_Holofernes
Manuscript illumination was, as in many areas, especially experimental in attempting ambitious lighting effects since the results were not for public display. The development of compositional chiaroscuro received a considerable impetus in northern Europe from the vision of the Nativity of Jesus of Saint Bridget of Sweden, a very popular mystic. She described the infant Jesus as emitting light; depictions increasingly reduced other light sources in the scene to emphasize this effect, and the Nativity remained very commonly treated with chiaroscuro through to the Baroque. Hugo van der Goes and his followers painted many scenes lit only by candle or the divine light from the infant Christ. As with some later painters, in their hands the effect was of stillness and calm rather than the drama with which it would be used during the Baroque.
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Rembrandt’s own interest in effects of darkness shifted in his mature works. He relied less on the sharp contrasts of light and dark that marked the Italian influences of the earlier generation, a factor found in his mid-seventeenth-century etchings. In that medium he shared many similarities with his contemporary in Italy, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, whose work in printmaking led him to invent the monotype.
External links Look up chiaroscuro in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro Woodcut from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art History Chiaroscuro woodcut from Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas (Modelling) chiaroscuro from Evansville University
Chiaroscuro woodcut of the Virgin and Child by Bartolommeo Coriolano, created between 1630 and 1655 (digitally restored)
Art Painting Henri Matisse Michelangelo Exhibitions blogposts
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1480-1505 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieronymus_Bosch
An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768
Giovanni Baglione. Sacred and Profane Love. 1602–1603, showing dramatic compositional chiaroscuro
Nativity at Night by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490, after a composition by Hugo van der Goes of c. 1470; sources of light are the infant Jesus, the shepherds’ fire on the hill behind, and the angel who appears to them.
The term chiaroscuro originated during the Renaissance as drawing on coloured paper, where the artist worked from the paper’s base tone toward light using white gouache, and toward dark using ink, bodycolour or watercolour. These in turn drew on traditions in illuminated manuscripts going back to late Roman Imperial manuscripts on purple-dyed vellum. Such works are called “chiaroscuro drawings”, but may only be described in modern museum terminology by such formulae as “pen on prepared paper, heightened with white bodycolour”. Chiaroscuro woodcuts began as imitations of this technique. When discussing Italian art, the term sometimes is used to mean painted images in monochrome or two colours, more generally known in English by the French equivalent, grisaille. The term broadened in meaning early on to cover all strong contrasts in illumination between light and dark areas in art, which is now the primary meaning.
In the style of Hieronymus Bosch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieronymus_Bosch
Categories: Art terminologyArtistic techniquesItalian words and phrasesComposition in visual art
The questions of faith, origin and mortality still remained in these renaissance artists minds. The culmination of skill, new materials and knowledge of the physical world propelled these artists to new heights within western art. Today we are featuring some of our favorite artworks from this time period and beyond which evoke that dark side of the renaissance.
Design versus colour is an artistic debate that goes back to the Renaissance. Art in Renaissance Florence – as I argue in my book The Lost Battles – was all about “design”. It was based on drawing, and ideas. That was why Michelangelo sneered that his Venetian rival Titian would be quite good if he learned to draw – those Venetian painters, in Michelangelo’s eyes, were brainless colourists, purveyors of gaudy eye-candy.
In the 1930s, he returned to the monochrome mentality of cubism. This time, he was searching not for the bare bones of cognition but the hidden truth of the psyche. The prints in his Vollard Suite invent a new visual language of lines and shade to evoke the deepest urges and terrors. This same monochrome mythology spills into paintings of the 1930s, including Guernica.