John Gutzon Borglum

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John Gutson de la Mothe Borglum

Birthplace: Saint Charles, Bear Lake, Idaho, United States
Death: Died in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States
Cause of death: Heart attack
Place of Burial: Glendale, Los Angeles, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Jens Møller Haugaard Børglum and Christiane Margrete Borglum
Husband of Mary Williams Borglum
Ex-husband of Elizabeth Borglum
Father of Lincoln Borglum and Mary Ellis Vhay
Brother of Solon Borglum
Half brother of Solon Hanibal de la Mothe Borglum; James Borglum; August M. Borglum; Jens Moller Haugaard Borglum, Jr.; Arnold Søren Borglum and 3 others

Occupation: Famous Sculptor
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Gutzon Borglum

(John) Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum (March 25, 1867 – March 6, 1941) was a Danish-American artist and sculptor famous for creating the monumental presidents' heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, the famous carving on Stone Mountain near Atlanta, as well as other public works of art.

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There are conflicting birthdates for the same person.

Artist. Best known for being the Mount Rushmore sculptor. He was born John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum in Idaho to a Danish immigrant who embraced the Mormon religion and immediately acquired two wives who were sisters. When Borglum was 4, his father, a frontier doctor, left the church, discarding young Borglum's mother so he could return to society with only one wife and a brood of children. The father was a wanderlust moving first to Omaha and then to Los Angeles where he set up a medical practice. Young Gutzon began to paint portraits and landscapes with great success and opened up his own art studio in the basement of The Times building in downtown Los Angeles. He was commissioned by the Times publisher to construct an eagle to adorn the top of the building. The finished product sculpt from wood weighed 200 pounds with a wingspan of 7 feet. It perched atop three Times buildings. Showing extreme wear, it was moved inside to protect it from decay and it can be seen today in the lobby of the Times building on Broadway. His career was moved forward by a strange marriage to a woman twice his age, an artist in her own right. His work attracted the backing of socialite, Mrs Spencer H. Smith who invested heavily in his talents and paid for his art training in Europe where Borglum learned sculpting in Paris. In 1893, Borglum and his wife returned to Los Angeles lured by the climate and a commission for three landscapes from former California Gov. Leland Stanford. They set up studio in the foothills of Sierra Madre in the outskirts of the city. By 1896, he was nearly 30 and broke. Returning to Europe, spending six years before returning minus his wife. he met Mary Montgomery on the return Atlantic crossing whom he would eventually marry. He began working in earnest, within a span of ten years he created a marble bust of Lincoln which can be seen today in the Capitol rotunda; sculpted more than 100 pieces for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. In 1915 he was commissioned to carve a 1,200 foot long relief of Confederate soldiers on Georgia's Stone Mountain. The Ku Klux Klan was the financial backer and he embraced the organization. He was fired from this project and bolted to South Dakota before authorities could detain him. The work was completed by others but not until 1970. South Dakota needed a tourist attraction and in 1927 Borglum was commissioned to carve the 60 foot high heads of four presidents all selected by the artist himself. He labored for 14 years fighting for funding and struggling against personal bankruptcy and public indifference. In 1941 with the project almost completed, he suffered a heart attack a few days before his 74th birthday. His son, Lincoln, finished the project later that year, just prior to the start of WW II. His body was returned to Los Angeles and interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale in the Memorial Court of Honor. The four presidential heads of Mt. Rushmore are depicted in bronze on his plaque.

Family links:

 Mary Williams Montgomery Borglum (1874 - 1955)*

 James Lincoln De La Mothe Borglum (1912 - 1986)*

Burial: Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) Glendale Los Angeles County California, USA Plot: Under the Last Supper window, first on the right

Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Jan 01, 2001 Find A Grave Memorial# 117


John Gutzon Borglum (March 25, 1867 - March 6, 1941), was the United States sculptor famous for creating the monumental presidents' heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

Born to the second wife of a Danish Latter-day Saint (LDS; see also Mormon) who practiced Plural Marriage in Idaho Territory, Gutzon Borglum was raised in California and trained in Paris, at the Académie Julian, where he came to know Auguste Rodin and was influenced by Rodin's dynamic impressionistic light-catching surfaces. Back in the U.S., in New York he sculpted about a hundred saints and apostles for the new Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in 1901, got a sculpture accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first sculpture by a living American the museum had ever purchased, and made his presence further felt with some well-placed portraits. Soon he had a national reputation.

A fascination with gigantic scale and themes of heroic nationalism suited his extroverted personality. His head of Abraham Lincoln, carved from a six-ton block of marble, was exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt's White House and can be found in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. A bully patriot, believing that the "monuments we have built are not our own," he looked to create art that was "American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement" according to a 1908 interview article. His equation of being "American" with being born of American parents—"flesh of our flesh"—was characteristic of nativist beliefs in the early 20th century. Borglum was highly suited to the competitive environment surrounding the contracts for public buildings and monuments, and his public sculpture is sited all around the United States.

Borglum was active in the committee that organized the New York Armory Show of 1913, the birthplace of modernism in American art. But by the time the show was ready to open, Borglum resigned from the committee, feeling that the emphasis on avant-garde works had co-opted the original premise of the show and made traditional artists like himself look provincial.

Such public stances made Borglum seem an ideologically sympathetic choice to carve a memorial to heroes of the Confederacy, planned for Stone Mountain, Georgia. In 1915, he was approached by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with a project for sculpting a 70-foot statue of General Robert E. Lee on the mountain's rockface, the largest naked granite outcropping in the world. Borglum accepted, but told the committee that a 70-foot carving of Lee at Stone Mountain would look like a postage stamp on the side of a barn.

Borglum's ideas eventually evolved into a high-relief frieze of Lee, Jefferson Davis, and 'Stonewall' Jackson riding around the mountain, followed by a legion of artillery troops.

After a delay caused by World War I, Borglum and the newly-chartered Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association set to work on this unexampled monument, the size of which had never been attempted before. Many difficulties slowed progress, some because of the sheer scale involved. After finishing the detailed model of the carving, Borglum was unable to trace his ideas onto the massive area onto which he was working, until he developed a gigantic magic lantern to project the image onto the side of the mountain.

Carving officially began on June 23, 1923, with Borglum making the first cut. Lee's head was unveiled on Lee's birth day January 19, 1924, to a large crowd, but soon thereafter Borglum was increasingly at odds with the officials of the Association. At Stone Mountain he developed sympathetic connections with the reorganized Ku Klux Klan, who were major financial backers for the monument, but his domineering, perfectionist, irascible, authoritarian manner brought tensions to such a point that in March 1925 Borglum smashed his clay and plaster models and exited Georgia permanently. His tenure with the Association was over. None of his work remains, as it was all cleared for the work of Augustus Lukeman, Borglum's replacement, but in the abortive attempt Borglum had developed necessary techniques for sculpting on a gigantic scale that made Mount Rushmore possible.

One of Borglum's more unusual pieces is the "Aviator" a memorial for James R, McConnell who was killed in World War I while flyng for the LaFayette Escadrille. It is located on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville,Virginia.

The Mount Rushmore project is told in more detail at its own entry. Briefly, it was the brainchild of South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson. The initial pair of presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were soon joined by Thomas Jefferson, for this monument sited in the sacred Native American heartland of the Louisiana Purchase, and to make the theme of Manifest Destiny perfectly clear, Theodore Roosevelt.

Borglum alternated exhausting on-site supervising with world tours, raising money, polishing his personal legend, sculpting a Thomas Paine for Paris and a Woodrow Wilson for Poland. In his absence, work at Mount Rushmore was overseen by his son Lincoln. When he died in Chicago, Illinois, following complications after surgery, his son finished another season at Rushmore, but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father's direction.

Borglum is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale in the Memorial Court of Honor. His second wife, Mary Montgomery Williams Borglum, 1874 - 1955 (they were married May 20, 1909) is interred alongside him.


1880 United States Federal Census about Gutzen Borglum Name: Gutzen Borglum Home in 1880: Fremont, Dodge, Nebraska Age: 13 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1867 Birthplace: Utah Territory Relation to Head of Household: Son Father's Name: James Borglum Father's birthplace: Denmark Mother's Name: Ida C. Borglum Mother's birthplace: Denmark Neighbors: View others on page Occupation: At School Marital Status: Single Race: White Gender: Male Cannot read/write:


Deaf and dumb:

Otherwise disabled:

Idiotic or insane:

View image Household Members: Name Age James Borglum 41 Ida C. Borglum 36 James Borglum 15 August Borglum 13 Arnold Borglum 11 Anna Borglum 9 Agnes Borglum 4 Francis Borglum 5m Gutzen Borglum 13 Solon Borglum 12 Marie Hanson 22 Neils Borglum 35


1910 United States Federal Census about Gutzon Borglum Name: Gutzon Borglum [Gutzor Borglum] Age in 1910: 43 Estimated Birth Year: 1867 Birthplace: Idaho Relation to Head of House: Head [Self (Head)] Father's Birth Place: Germany [Denmark] Mother's Birth Place: Germany [Denmark] Spouse's Name: Mary W Borglum Home in 1910: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York Marital Status: Married Race: White Gender: Male Neighbors: View others on page Household Members: Name Age Gutzon Borglum 43 Mary W Borglum 35 Theresa Ward 21


Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988 about Gutzon Borglum Name: Gutzon Borglum Death Date: 6 Mar 1941 Death Location: Cook County, IL File Number: 6855 Archive collection name: Cook County Genealogy Records (Deaths) Archive repository location: Chicago, IL Archive repository name: Cook County Clerk

Borglum was an active member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (the Freemasons), raised in Howard Lodge #35, New York City, on June 10, 1904, and serving as its Worshipful Master 1910-11. In 1915, he was appointed Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Denmark near the Grand Lodge of New York. He received his Scottish Rite Degrees in the New York City Consistory on October 25, 1907


-------------------- Commissioned to sculpt the heads of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.

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John Gutzon Borglum's Timeline

March 25, 1867
Saint Charles, Bear Lake, Idaho, United States
Age 21
Age 40
May 20, 1909
Age 42
Connecticut, United States
April 9, 1912
Age 45
Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States
March 25, 1916
Age 49
Atlanta, Fulton, GA, USA
March 6, 1941
Age 73
Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States
May 16, 1941
Age 73
Glendale, Los Angeles, California, United States