Of Heaven and Earth: Chiaroscuro Creations

Chiaroscuro paintings often have strong contrasts of light and dark. This style of painting was made popular during the Renaissance and often featured a portrait of its subject.

Unidendified Italian (?) Painter, mid-17th century, Vanitas, ca. 1650/60. Gift of Dame Anne Maxwell Macdonald, 1967 (PC.26). © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection. Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

In the Of Heaven and Earth exhibition, the painting by an unidentified Italian painter (pictured left) is one such example.

Give students a chance to create their own chiaroscuro paintings from a still life. Arrange items in an interesting way, and use a candle or flashlight to assist in making shadows. The room should be darkened so the only illumination is on the still life itself. Encourage students to paint slowly, thinking about color gradations. Use paper plates or pieces of scrap paper for mixing colors to create shades and hues.

Display the finished paintings in frames—either repurposed or cut from paper—painted gold, in the style of the Renaissance.