The French use of the term, clair-obscur, was introduced by the seventeenth century art-critic Roger de Piles in the course of a famous argument (Débat sur le coloris) on the relative merits of drawing and colour in painting (his Dialogues sur le coloris, 1673 was a key contribution to the Débat). In English, the Italian term has been used since at least the late 17th century.

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