Borglum, Gutzon

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Borglum, Gutzon

Borglum, Gutzon (John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum) (gŭtˈsən dĕ lˈə mät bôrˈgləm), 1867–1941, American sculptor, b. Idaho; son of a Danish immigrant physician and rancher. He studied at the San Francisco Art Academy and in Paris at Julian's academy and the École des Beaux-Arts. His first commission after his return to New York in 1901 was the statue of Lincoln that stands in the rotunda of the Capitol, Washington, D.C. Other works of his earlier period include another figure of Lincoln (Newark), a statue of Henry Ward Beecher (Brooklyn), Mares of Diomedes (Metropolitan Mus.), and figures of the apostles created for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City.

Borglum is most famous, however, for his monumental works. He designed the first of these, a Confederate memorial on Stone Mt., Ga., and began carving it in 1916. The work was interrupted by World War I but was resumed in 1924. As the result of an acrimonious controversy with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, he ceased working and destroyed his models. Moving to South Dakota, Borglum began work on the gigantic Mount Rushmore National Memorial in 1927. One of the largest sculptural projects in existence, the memorial was also a great engineering feat. Borglum had nearly finished the 60-ft (18.3-m) heads of the four presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) when he died. Plans for an even more ambitious composition were abandoned and the work was finished (1941) by his son Lincoln. Borglum was a man of tremendous vitality and decided opinions that led him into frequent confrontations. His brother Solon Hannibal Borglum, 1868–1922, was also a sculptor, noted especially for his portrayal of horses, cattle, Native Americans, and cowboys.


See R. J. Casey and M. Borglum, Give the Man Room: The Story of Gutzon Borglum (1952); W. Price, Gutzon Borglum, Artist and Patriot (1961); A. M. Davies, Solon H. Borglum (1974); J. Taliaferro, Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore (2002).

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Borglum, (John) Gutzon (de la Mothe)

(1867–1941) sculptor; born near Bear Lake, Idaho Territory. Child of Danish immigrants, he was raised throughout the West; after college he moved to California (1884) where he studied art and took up painting portraits. He met Jesse Benton Fremont, who sponsored his studies in Paris and Spain (1890–92). After working in California and London (England), he settled in New York City (1901). By then he had switched to sculpture; his Mares of Diomedes won a gold medal at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 and was the first American sculpture acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was soon winning commissions, including The Twelve Apostles for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Asked by the Daughters of the Confederacy to sculpt the head of Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain, Georgia, he designed an ambitious ensemble portraying Confederate leaders and hundreds of soldiers; a disagreement led to his quitting in 1924 with only a few figures finished. (The project was revived in 1960.) He had already been asked by South Dakota to carve a "shrine of democracy" there and he chose Mt. Rushmore. He began in 1927 and had finished the 60-foot head of George Washington by 1930, by which time the U.S. Congress had authorized funds. An opinionated man, he feuded with the National Parks Service over money and procedures, but no one questioned his patriotism or energy. He had practically finished the other three heads by his death (and his son, Lincoln Borglum, completed some details shortly thereafter).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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