Hernando Gonzallo Villa Biography

Hernando Gonzallo Villa




Painter, muralist, and illustrator Hernando Gonzalo Villa was born in Los Angeles, California, on Oct. 1, 1881, the son of Esiquia and Miguel de Villa. His parents came to Los Angeles from Baja California in 1846 when the area was still part of Mexico. Raised in an artistic milieu, his mother was an amateur singer and his father an artist with a studio on the Plaza. Villa studied locally under Louise Garden-MacLeod at the Los Angeles School of Art & Design in 1905, traveling to Germany and England to further his studies the following year.

After returning to Los Angeles, he took a teaching post at the School of Art & Design while establishing a studio, remaining at the school for two years while taking illustration commissions for regional publications Pasadena Daily News, Town Talk, and The West Coast Magazine, and others. He soon established himself as a leading commercial artist with a specialty in themes of the Old West, including landscapes, figurative works, and historical subjects.

Hernando Gonzallo Villa was another in the stable of artists nurtured by the Santa Fe Railway in the first half of the twentieth century. He worked as a commercial artist and illustrator for the Santa Fe Railroad for 40 years, his most famous work, The Chief, became their emblem. Equally facile with oil, watercolor, pastel, and charcoal, he produced scenes of the Old West, Indigenous peoples, Mexican vaqueros, and missions. Villa created a mural for the New Rialto Theater in Phoenix, Arizona and won a gold medal for a mural exhibited at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in 1915. An accomplished easel painter, he frequently exhibited with the Academy of Western Painters.

Hernando Gonzallo Villa died in Los Angeles on May 7, 1952.