Hernando Gonzallo Villa was among the artists active in Los Angeles in the early part of this century and one of the few of Mexican descent. His father, Esiquia, was an artist, who with Hernando’s mother had come from Baja California in 1846. In 1905 Villa graduated from the first local art academy, Los Angeles School of Art and Design, where he studied with its founder, Louise Elizabeth Garden MacLeod (1857-1944). After visiting England and Germany, in 1906 he began his career as a commercial artist and a forty-year association with the Sante Fe Railroad. He also worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and illustrated West Coast magazines, such as Town Talk, but he was perhaps best known for the image of The Chief; which became the emblem for the Santa Fe Railroad. Villa also painted murals, and his decorations for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco won him a gold medal. He specialized in paintings depicting early Californian, Native American, and Southwestern themes. He exhibited extensively in Los Angeles and in the mid-1930s showed easel paintings at the Academy of Western Painters.
Los Angeles, Sotheby-Parke-Bernet, American Indian Art and a Collection of Western Paintings by Hernando Villa, auction cat., 1972 § Los Angeles, Sotheby-Parke-Bernet, Important Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth, Century American Paintings... A Collection of Paintings by Hernando Villa, auction cat., 1973 § Moure with Smith 1975, p. 258, with bibliography § Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976), p. 501 § Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940 (San Francisco: Hughes Publishing, 1986), p. 478, with bibliography.