Gutzon Borglum

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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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