Gutzon Borglum Biography

(American Sculptor Best Known for His Colossal Mount Rushmore Sculpture of the Faces of Four U.S. Presidents)

Birthday: March 25, 1867 (Aries)

Born In: Saint Charles, Idaho, United States

Gutzon Borglum, born as John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, was an artist and sculptor from America. He was best known for his association with the establishment of Mount Rushmore National Memorial located at Mount Rushmore of South Dakota. He was also associated with a few other works of art including memorial Start Westward of United States and the statue of Daniel Butterfield. A graduate of St. Mary's College and Creighton Preparatory School, Borglum was a child of Mormon polygamy. His public life was also the talk of the town just like his professional life. He was an active member of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Borglum, who was the Grand Representative of Grand Lodge of Denmark, was also active in the group that organized the New York Armory Show in 1913. He was a part of the Ku Klux Klan as well and was one of the six knights who assembled on the Imperial Koncilium, which transferred leadership of Ku Klux Klan from the Imperial Wizard Colonel Simmons to the Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans. Borglum, who died from complications during a surgery in 1941, is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Memorial Court of Honor alongside his second wife, Mary Montgomery Williams Borglum.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum

Died At Age: 73


father: Christina Mikkelsen Borglum

mother: Jens Møller Haugaard Børglum

siblings: Solon Borglum

children: Lincoln Borglum

Born Country: United States

Artists Sculptors

Died on: March 6, 1941

place of death: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Notable Alumni: Académie Julian, École Des Beaux-Arts, Mark Hopkins Institute Of Art, California School Of Design

Ancestry: Danish American

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

U.S. State: Idaho

More Facts

education: Académie Julian, École Des Beaux-Arts, Mark Hopkins Institute Of Art, California School Of Design

  • 1

    What inspired Gutzon Borglum to create Mount Rushmore?

    Gutzon Borglum was inspired by the idea of creating a monumental sculpture that would honor America's history and its most influential leaders.

  • 2

    How long did it take Gutzon Borglum to complete the Mount Rushmore project?

    The Mount Rushmore project took around 14 years to complete, from 1927 to 1941.

  • 3

    Did Gutzon Borglum face any challenges while working on Mount Rushmore?

    Yes, Gutzon Borglum faced numerous challenges while working on Mount Rushmore, including funding issues, technical difficulties, and harsh weather conditions.

  • 4

    What materials were used in the creation of Mount Rushmore by Gutzon Borglum?

    Gutzon Borglum used dynamite and pneumatic hammers to sculpt the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore, primarily working with granite.

  • 5

    How did Gutzon Borglum's previous works influence his approach to creating Mount Rushmore?

    Gutzon Borglum's experience with sculpting large monuments and his attention to detail in previous works greatly influenced his approach to creating Mount Rushmore, ensuring precision and accuracy in the final sculpture.

Childhood & Early Life
Gutzon Borglum, a child of Mormon polygamy, was born on March 25, 1867 in St. Charles, Idaho Territory, U.S.A. His father, Jens Møller Haugaard Børglum, had two wives: Gutzon's mother, Christina Mikkelsen, and Gutzon's mother's sister Ida.
Borglum had a younger brother named Solon who was also an established sculptor. He also had step-siblings.
He was enrolled at the St. Mary's College, Kansas and later relocated to Omaha, Nebraska to attend Creighton Preparatory School. There he also served in a machine shop.
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Gutzon Borglum initially worked at a machine shop and then started sculpting. In 1901, he sculpted saints as well as apostles for new Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. In 1906, he made a sculpture with a group that went on to be accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1908, he won a competition and was allocated the task to build a statue of Civil War General Philip Sheridan. This statue was then placed in the Sheridan Circle in Washington. D.C.
Soon after this, Borglum created the sculpture Rabboni at the Rock Creek Cemetery as a grave site for Ffoulke Family. He then became one of the drafters of the Czechoslovak declaration of independence in 1918.
In 1919, one of his most unusual pieces, ‘Aviator,’ was completed. This was the memorial of the World War I official James R. McConnell and is located at the University of Virginia.
In the year 1923, another version of the General Philip Sheridan statue was erected in Chicago, Illinois. Two years later, the American artist moved to Texas to work on the monument to trail drivers that was commissioned by the Trail Drivers Association. The monument stands in front of the Trail Drivers Memorial Hall and Texas Pioneer, next to Witte Museum in San Antonio.
Borglum’s head of Abraham Lincoln that was carved from a six-ton block of marble went on to be exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt's White House. It can now be found in United States Capitol Crypt, Washington, D.C.
From 1927–1941, the sculptor was involved in the Mount Rushmore project. He initially carved the face of Thomas Jefferson which was later joined by presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Borglum died in March 1941 and his son, Lincoln Borglum, finished another season at Rushmore.
Major Works
Gutzon Borglum was involved in the carving of the Stone Mountain in Georgia. In 1915, he was approached by the United Daughters of the Confederacy who wanted him to carve bust of General Robert E. Lee on the mountain's rockface. Carving of the mountain officially began in June 1923 and the following year, Lee's head was unveiled to a large crowd.
In the year 1915, Memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson that is located at Baker Cottage, Saranac Lake was also unveiled by Borglum.
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He built the statue of the American Civil War’s General Daniel Butterfield at the Sakura Park in Manhattan.
Borglum created a memorial to Vanzetti and Sacco in 1928. Its plaster cast now resides in the Boston Public Library. The memorial Start Westward of the United States (located in Marietta, Ohio) was also sculpted by Borglum.
Another design of the American artist is the North Carolina Monument that resides on the Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg Battlefield in the south-central Pennsylvania.
Awards & Achievements
In 1906, Gutzon Borglum made a group sculpture that was later on accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art—the first ever sculpture by a living American the museum had bought. Borglum was also honored with the Logan Medal of the Arts.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1889, Gutzon Borglum married Elizabeth Janes. She was ex-wife of J. W. Putnam and 19 years older to him. The couple faced marital problems and got separated in 1903. However, they officially got divorced only in 1908.
On May 20, 1909, Borglum married his second wife, Mary Montgomery Williams. The couple together had two sons and a daughter, including Lincoln and Mary Ellis (Mel) Borglum Vhay.
Borglum died on March 6, 1941 due to complications during a surgery. He was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park located in Glendale, California. Later on, his wife was also interred beside him.
Facts About Gutzon Borglum

Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, was also a painter and created many works of art beyond his famous monumental sculptures.

Borglum once worked as a cowboy in the American West before pursuing a career in art, showcasing his adventurous spirit and diverse interests.

He was known for his meticulous attention to detail, often spending hours studying facial features and expressions to accurately depict his subjects in his sculptures.

Borglum had a strong interest in history and incorporated many historical and cultural references into his sculptures, adding layers of meaning and depth to his work.

See the events in life of Gutzon Borglum in Chronological Order

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