What is Tenebrism?
Tenebrism, from Italian tenebroso (“dark, gloomy, mysterious”), is a style of painting using especially pronounced chiaroscuro, where there are violent contrasts of light and dark, and where darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image. It is also occasionally called dramatic illumination.
Characteristics of Tenebrism
* The subject is usually illuminated by a single light source, often a candle or lantern.
* The light source is usually placed outside the painting, creating a spotlight effect.
* The light source is usually placed in the upper part of the painting, creating a dramatic contrast between light and dark.
* The dark areas of the painting are usually more prominent than the light areas.
* The painting often has a theatrical or cinematic feel to it.
Examples of Tenebrism
* Caravaggio’s “The Calling of St. Matthew” (1599-1600)
* Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” (1642)
* Georges de La Tour’s “The Penitent Magdalene” (1640-1650)
* Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes” (1620)
Uses of Tenebrism
Tenebrism is often used to create a sense of drama and tension in a painting. It can also be used to create a sense of mystery or to draw attention to a particular part of the painting. Tenebrism can also be used to create a sense of foreboding or fear.