born 1562, Pisa [Italy]
died c. 1639, , London, Eng.
original name Orazio Lomi Italian Baroque painter, one of the more important
painters who came under the influence of Caravaggio and who was one of the more
successful interpreters of his style.
Gentileschi first studied with his half brother Aurelio Lomi. At some time in
the late 1570s or early 1580s he went to Rome, where, with the landscape painter
Agostino Tassi, he painted frescoes in churches of Santa Maria Maggiore, San
Giovanni Laterano, and Santa Nicola in Carcere from about 1590 to 1600,
executing figures for Tassi's landscapes.
In the first years of the 17th century Gentileschi came under the influence of
Caravaggio, also in Rome at the time. His paintings of this period (e.g., “David
and Goliath,” 1610?, and “St. Cecilia and the Angel,” 1610?) employ Caravaggio's
use of dramatic, unconventional gesture and monumental composition, his
uncompromising realism and contemporary representation of figure types, and to
some extent his strong chiaroscuro, or light-and-dark contrast. Shortly afterward
Gentileschi developed a Tuscan lyricism foreign to Caravaggio's almost brutal
vitality, a lighter palette, and a more precise treatment reminiscent of his
Mannerist beginnings. From 1621 to 1623 Gentileschi was in Genoa, where he
painted his masterpiece, “The Annunciation” (1623), a work of consummate grace
that shows a weakening of Caravaggio's influence. The composition still depends
on dramatic gestures, here of the Virgin and the angel, and there is still a
strong immediacy to the incident and an absence of idealization. The mood,
however, is more restrained and lyrical than in his earlier works, the colours
are light, and the earlier chiaroscuro is absent.
After a stay in France, Gentileschi traveled to England in 1626 at the
invitation of King Charles I; he remained there as court painter for the rest of
his life, his work becoming increasingly conventional and decorative. His last
major work is an ambitious series of ceiling paintings for the Queen's House,
Greenwich, painted probably after 1635, and now in Marlborough House, London.