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 which stands in the rotunda of the Capitol, Washington, D.C. Other works of his earlier period were a statue of Henry Ward Beecher (Brooklyn), Mares of Diomedes (Metropolitan Mus.), and figures of the apostles for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. He designed and began carving (1916) a Confederate memorial on Stone Mt., Ga. The work was interrupted by World War I but was resumed in 1924. As the result of a controversy with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, Borglum ceased working and destroyed his models. His supervision of the gigantic Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota was begun in 1927. One of the largest sculptural projects in existence, with heads 60 ft (18.3 m) high, the Memorial was also a great engineering feat. Borglum had finished the heads of the four Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) when he died. The work was finished by his son Lincoln Borglum. Borglum was a man of tremendous vitality and decided opinions which led him into frequent controversies. 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 Mary Borglum, Give the Man Room: the Story of Gutzon Borglum (1952); Willadene Price, Gutzon Borglum, Artist and Patriot (1961); A. M. Davies, Solon H. Borglum (1974).