Chiaroscuro is Italian for "light dark". In drawing and painting, it refers to the balance and structure of light and dark in the artwork.
Chiaroscuro originated from the Renaissance period where artists would create strong contrasts between light and dark to render three-dimensional forms to dramatic effect. Generally, chiaroscuro is only mentioned of artworks with a dominant contrast between light and dark.
Some of the prominent artists associated with chiaroscuro are Ugo da Carpi (c. 1455–c.1523), Giovanni Baglione (1566–1643), Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573–1610) and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn I (1606-1669).
Caravaggio went on to become a figurehead in the Tenebrism art movement, where chiaroscuro was used to dramatic effect with violent contrasts between light and dark with a spotlight effect.