Belgian sculptor, born in Ilfracombe, Devon. His father returned with his family to Belgium in 1925, settling in Antwerp. Gentils trained as a painter and decorator, his father's profession, and his skills in woodworking and gilding were a crucial part of his later practice as a sculptor. He studied painting and engraving but in the mid-1950s began working in three dimensions. In 1960 he began making the constructions in wood for which he is best known, using old furniture, picture frames, and pianos. This last became so associated with him that it formed the basis of a self-portrait of 1965. The first examples were non-figurative, although they sometimes recalled the format of the altarpiece. By the mid-1960s figures started appearing, as in his haunting depiction of a boxed prostitute Rua de Amor (1969, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels). They owe something to the towering constructed figures painted by de Chirico and Max Ernst. His work was often preoccupied with Belgian history and identity: homage is paid to artists such as Bruegel, Ensor, and Delvaux. The Homage to Camille Huysmans (1970–71) shows the Belgian socialist leader surrounded by workers, visiting Lenin. These specifically local concerns might be one reason why an artist so highly regarded in his own country has never made a comparable impact outside it.
From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.