JOHN GUTZON de la MOTHE BORGLUM: 1867-1941
John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was born to the second wife of a Danish Mormon in Idaho Territory. Borglum was raised in California and trained in Paris. There he became acquainted with Auguste Rodin and was influenced by Rodin’s dynamic impressionistic sculpture.
Returning to the U.S., Borglum sculpted a bust of Abraham Lincoln, carved from a six-ton block of marble, which was exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. The quality of the Lincoln portrait, as well as his other works, soon gave Borglum a national reputation. He was invited by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a bust of Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Stone Mountain became his first mountain carving project. It was there that he developed many of the techniques that would later be used in carving Mt. Rushmore.
Gigantic scale and themes of heroic nationalism suited Borglums extroverted personality. He looked to create art that was for all Americans, art that drew its inspiration from Americans and honored American accomplishments.
Borglum was invited to the Black Hills of South Dakota by its state historian, Doane Robinson, who had read about Stone Mountain. Borglum immediately suggested a national subject for Rushmore. The initial plan included the faces of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson were added to the design soon afterward.
On March 6, 1941, Borglum died, following complications after surgery. While his son Lincoln continued the work at Rushmore for one more season, the monumental sculpture was left at the state of completion that Borglum had brought it to.
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