Hernando Gonzallo Villa

Hernando Gonzallo Villa


Hernando Villa’s parents came to Los Angeles from Baja (Lower) California in 1846, when the area was still part of Mexico. His parents were both artists—his mother was an amateur singer, and his father was a painter. Villa studied with Louise Garden MacLeod (1857–1944) at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design in 1905, and then studied for a year in England and Germany. After returning to Los Angeles, he established a studio and taught for two years at the School of Art and Design. He developed a specialty in works depicting the Old West, including landscapes, figurative works, and paintings of the California missions. As a commercial artist, he created illustrations for magazines and advertisements for the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad. He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad for forty years; his most famous work, The Chief, became their emblem. He also painted murals, including those at the Rialto Theater in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1925.


Many of his commercial works completed for the Santa Fe Railroad, Southern Pacific Railroad, and Southern California magazine publications were painted with watercolors. Other works depicting missions and landscape subjects were watercolors, mixed with ink and pastels. Villa also produced many oil paintings, some of which were reproduced and sold as art prints in the 1930s. South Sea Joy, from 1939, could have been a preparatory painting for a work used to advertise travel to the South Pacific. Executed in graphite and watercolor, the painting is carefully rendered, typical of commercial illustration. In recent years, Villa’s paintings of Spanish dancers have become sought after by collectors, commanding high prices at auction.


Sailing Ship in L.A Harbor
Oil on canvas panel, c.1930
20 x 26 inches
Gift of the Carl S. Dentzel Estate