Artists to Know: Gerard van Honthorst

Gerard van Honthorst (November 4, 1592 – April 27, 1656) was initially trained at the school of Abraham Bloemaert. Honthorst travelled to Italy in 1616, where he was influenced heavily by the style of Michelangelo da Caravaggio. Returning home in about 1620, after acquiring a considerable practice in Rome, he set up a flourishing school in Utrecht. In 1623 he was president of the Guild of St. Luke in Utrecht, when he also married. A particular genre that developed was the nocturnal scene lit by candlelight, which looked back to earlier northern artists like 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 17th century, where it became associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti like Gerrit van Honthorst and Dirck van Baburen, and with Flemish Baroque painters such as Jacob Jordaens. This process is called Chiaroscuro (English pronunciation: /kiˌɑːrəˈskjʊər/Italian: [kjarosˈkuːro] "light-dark") in art it is characterized by 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 using contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects such as the human body.