Apprentice carver and ceramist, in 1925 he went to Bologna to meet Giovanni Romagnoli, holder of the chair of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in the city, who encouraged him to paint. In 1930 he already exhibited at the XVII International Biennale of Art in Venice, where he will also be present in 1936, 1938, 1940, 1942, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1958 (personal room), 1966 (personal room) and in 1968. </ p>
In 1932 he moved to Rome, where he frequented the Aragno café, meeting personalities such as Ungaretti, Cardarelli, Bruno Barilli, Cecchi, Sinisgalli, Cagli, De Libero. In 1933, he held his first personal exhibition at La Galleria (Rome). It is strongly influenced by the Roman School : from the Baroque expressionism of Scipione and Mafai to the more rigorous line of Cagli and Capogrossi. In the 40s, alongside his pictorial activity, an intense graphic production, with collaborations with many magazines, such as “Primato” and “Documento”, and comes into contact with the collector and art dealer Carlo Cardazzo, who will be among his main promoters also abroad.
Various stays in Paris help him develop a style in which the new international currents of cubism, surrealism and material research find their place: during one of them he visits Jean’s studio Dubuffet, who will have a great influence on the later stage of his work. Over the years, Gentilini’s painting becomes rough, the color is mixed with glue and sand, reality fades into surreal images, but at the same time with an ancient and classic flavor, between play and irony. In the 1950s Gentilini received public awards and recognitions, and held a solo show in Paris, at the Galerie Rive Gauche. He collaborates with the magazine “Civiltà delle Macchine”, directed by Leonardo Sinisgalli. In the 1960s, a traveling exhibition was held in the United States. In 1965 he won the Rome Prize. In 1977 in Brussels he was elected member of the Royal Academy of Arts, Literature and Fine Arts of Belgium.