Themes in Art


When you take the dramatic contrast of light and shadow known as chiaroscuro to a wild, violent extreme—that’s tenebrism. From the Italian tenebroso, meaning ‘dark, mysterious’ Tenebrism became a fixation for artists during the Baroque period. The distinctive ‘spolight’ look appears in work by El Greco, Tintoretto and Dürer, but it was Caravaggio that made it canon.

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Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio

Calling of Saint Matthew Caravaggio, 1600

John the Baptist in the Wilderness, Caravaggio

John the Baptist in the Wilderness Caravaggio, 1604

Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes, Trophime Bigot

Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes Trophime Bigot, 1640

The Agony in the Garden, El Greco

The Agony in the Garden El Greco, 1590 – 1595

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew Caravaggio, 1599

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Body, language

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