link to University of Utah Home link to Marriott Library Home
Off Campus Access - Log In
We are migrating to a new system. Requests and My Account functionality are temporarily unavailable in Usearch.

Utah Artists Project Logo

Gutzon Borglum

Gutzon Borglum was born in log cabin near Bear Lake, Idaho in 1867 and lived in Utah until 1869. The first sculptor to celebrate the American west and most well known as the sculptor of the Mount Rushmore monument, he created more than 170 sculptures in his lifetime. He died while on a speaking tour in Chicago in 1941. 


Borglum's parents were Danish immigrants who converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He spent his childhood in Omaha and when he was seventeen, he moved with his family to Los Angeles where he worked as a lithographer. Borglum studied with Virgil Williams at the Mark Hopkins School of Art in San Francisco in the 1880s. From 1890 to 1893 he lived in Paris where he studied the academic approach to sculpting at the Académie Julian and at the École des Beaux Arts. Auguste Rodin was a major influence on his work. By 1896, Borglum exhibited both painting and sculpture in London and Paris. 

Borglum moved to New York in 1901. His first sculptural success was the Mares of Diomedes (1903). He was commissioned to create a sculpture of the apostles that became part of the statuary at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Sculptures of Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Paine were also commissioned. His large sculpture, The Head of Lincoln, appears in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. 

While working on The Head of Lincoln, Borglum became interested in increasingly monumental sculptural size. He worked on his most famous sculpture, The Mount Rushmore National Monument, in the Black Hills of South Dakota from 1927 until his death in 1941. The 60-foot faces of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt were blasted out of the granite of the 5,275-foot peak. His son, Lincoln Borglum, finished the monument after his father's death.


Biographical information on this page was adapted from the Springville Museum of Art.

Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was born in St. Charles, near Bear Lake, Idaho Territory, on March 26, 1867. His parents were both from Denmark, and Borglum may have developed his love of sculpting by watching his father work as a woodcutter. He also had a younger brother, Solon, who followed in his footsteps and became an artist. As a child, Gutzon lived in Utah from 1868-1869.

Gutzon Borglum studied art in a variety of places including San Francisco, California, and Paris, France. While in Paris, Borglum was greatly influenced by the sculpture of Auguste Rodin. Borglum's place of study in France was the Academie Julian, where he studied the academic approach to sculpting from 1890-1893.

Although Borglum studied abroad for a time, his greatest interest remained the subjects he found in the United States. As a boy, Borglum developed his love for the West in particular, preferring to create images of horses and American Indians over other subjects.

In 1901, Gutzon moved to New York where he was commissioned to create a sculpture of the apostles for the St. John the Divine Cathedral. By now involved in “almost exclusively“ sculpture, Gutzon's work combined his own peculiar western-born exuberance with a Rodin “sketch-like intensity,“ the result of his years of study in Paris. One excellent example of this powerful combination is his piece Mares of Diomedes, described as a “foaming 'Wild West' stampede in rather transparent mythological 'clothing.'“ When the Mares of Diomedes became the first American sculpture to be purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Borglum's growing fame was officially sealed.

During his adult life, Gutzon Borglum created many sculptures that epitomize the great figures of American democracy. He completed several sculptures depicting United States' President Abraham Lincoln, including one using a six-ton block of marble to depict the head of President Lincoln. This Head of Lincoln can be found at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. He also completed sculptures of Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Paine. However, while creating his giant sculpture of Lincoln, Borglum became fascinated with art that was larger than life.

Borglum was inventive in creating massive works. He even created new methods for successfully displaying a human figure at many times its actual size. Borglum's greatest challenge was completing the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This work required Borglum to create the faces of four former United States' presidents. Yet the faces were not merely double or triple the size of the actual human face, but each face was 60 feet high. Borglum worked on the Monument for 14 summers, but died before it was finished. His son, Lincoln, also a sculptor, finished the work seven months later.

Borglum's personality was said to be “outspoken“ and at times “egotistical.“ This type of behavior may have been provoked by Borglum's own need to be the best at what he did, which caused him to be critical of anyone who did not share his high ideals in art. Borglum is quoted as saying about his art:

“And I remember very distinctly that beauty and form and the making of things seemed to be a very idle kind of pastime until I myself formed some definite ideals for my own life, quite apart from my own work, and then the work shaped itself to fulfill that life.“

Gutzon Borglum created as many as 170 statues and monuments during his lifetime. His work ranges from Western inspired pieces, to classical works, to those that honor and glorify the ideals and heroes of American society.

Biography courtesy Springville Museum of Art.

Books

Ainsworth. The Cowboy in Art. New York, NY: World Pub. Co., 1968.

Archives of American Art. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution: A Checklist of the Collection. Washington, D.C.: The Archives, 1975.

Arkelian, Marjorie. The Kahn Collection of Nineteenth-Century Paintings by Artists in California. Oakland, CA: Oakland Museum, Art Department 1975.

Armstrong, Tom. 200 Years of American Sculpture. Boston, MA: D. R. Godine, 1976.

Axelrod, Alan. Art of the Golden West. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990.

Bell, David. Praeger Encyclopedia of Art. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers, 1971.

Boime Albert. The Magisterial Gaze: Manifest Destiny and American Landscape Painting c. 1830-1865. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

Broder Patricia J. Bronzes of the American West. New York, NY: H. N. Abrams, 1972.

Brown, Milton W. American Art to 1900: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, NY: H. N. Abrams, 1977.

Carter, Robin Borglum. Gutzon Borglum: His Life and Work. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1998.

Corcoran Gallery of Art. Privately Owned: A Selection of Works of Art from Collections in the Washington Area, February Tenth-March Thirtieth, 1952. Washington, D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1952.

Craven, Wayne. Sculpture in America. New York, NY: Crowell, 1984.

Davenport , Ray. Davenport's Art Reference. Ventura, CA: Davenport 's Art Reference, 2001.

Dunbier, Lonnie P., ed. The Artists Bluebook: 29,000 North American Artists. Scottsdale, AZ: AskART.com, 2003.

Earle, Helen L. Biographical Sketches of American Artists. Lansing, MI: Michigan State Library, 1972.

Ekdahl, Janis. American Sculpture: a Guide to Information Sources. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co, 1977.

Eldredge, Charles and J. Schimmel. Art in New Mexico, 1900-1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe. Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1986.

Falk, Peter Hastings. Annual Exhibition Record, 1901-19: National Academy of Design. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1990.

Falk, Peter Hastings. The Annual Exhibition Record of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1888-1950. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1990.

Falk, Peter Hastings. Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.

Falk, Peter Hastings. Who Was Who in American Art: Compiled from the Original Thirty-four Volumes of American Art Annual--Who's Who in Art, Biographies of American Artists Active from 1898-1947. Madison, CT:Sound View Press, 1985.

Fielding Mantle and Glenn B. Opitz, eds. Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers. 2nd ed. Poughkeepsie, NY: Apollo, 1986.

Fink, Lois M. American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1990.

Gerdts, William H. Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990.

Getlein, Frank. The Lure of the Great West. Waukesha, WI: Country Beautiful, 1973.

Grauer, Paula and Michael Grauer. Dictionary of Texas Artists, 1800-1945. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University, 1999.

Green, Samuel M. American Art, A Historical Survey. New York, NY: Ronald Press, 1966.

Hassrick, Peter H. Treasures of the Old West: Paintings and Sculpture from the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art. New York, NY: Abrams, 1984.

Hughes, Edan Milton. Artists in California: 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Sacramento, CA: Crocker Art Museum, 2002.

Hunt, David C. Legacy of the West. Omaha, Nebraska: Joslyn Art Museum, 1982.

Kearney State College. A Survey of Nebraska Art: Exhibition, October 1-27, 1978, Art Gallery, Kearney State College. Omaha, NE: Nebraska Arts Council, 1978.

Kennedy Galleries. The Kennedy Galleries Are Host to the Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures by 100 Artists Associated with the Art Students League of New York. March 6-29, 1975. New York, NY: Art Students League of New York, 1975.

Kloss, William and Doreen Bolger. Art in the White House: a Nation's Pride. Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association in cooperation with the National Geographic Society, 1992.

Mallett, Daniel T. Index of Artists, International-Biographical; Including Painters, Sculptors, Illustrators, Engravers and Etchers of the Past and the Present. New York, NY: Smith, 1948.

Mathey, Francois. American Realism. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 1978.

McLanathan, Richard. The American Tradition in the Arts. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.

Mendelowitz, Daniel M. A History of American Art. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960.

Moure, Nancy and Dustin Wall. California Art: 450 years of painting & other media. Los Angeles, CA: Dustin Publications, 1998.

Myers, Fred. The Treasures of The Gilcrease. Tulsa, OK: T. Gilcrease Museum Association, 1979.

Nebraska Centenial Commission. Nebraska Art Today; A Centennial Invitational Exhibition. Omaha, NE: Joslyn Art Museum, 1967.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Opitz, Glenn B. ed. Dictionary of American Sculptors: 18th Century to Present. Poughkeepsie, NY: Apollo, 1984.

Osborne, Harold. The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Art. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Pearson, Ralph M. Experiencing American Pictures. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1943.

Rugoff, Milton. Encyclopedia of American Art. New York, NY: Dutton, 1981.

Samuels, Peggy and Harold Samuels. The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976.

Saunders, Richard H. Collecting the West: the C.R. Smith Collection of Western American Art. Austin, TX: Published for the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, College of Fine Arts, 1988.

Shaff, Howard and Audrey. Six Wars at a Time: the Life and Times of Gutzon Borglum, Sculptor of Mount Rushmore. Sioux Falls, SD: Center for Western Studies, Augustana College, 1985.

Smith, Rex Alan. The Carving of Mount Rushmore. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1985.

Southwest Art. Red Book Price Guide-1997 Western American Art. Houston, TX: Cowles Enthusiast Media, 1997.

Springville Museum of Art. Permanent Collection Catalog. Springville, UT: Springville Museum of Art, 1972.

Steiner, Raymond J. The Art Students League of New York: a History. Saugerties, NY: CSS Publications, 1999.

Steinfeld, Cecilia. Art for History's Sake: the Texas Collection of the Witte Museum. Austin, TX: Texas State Historical Association for the Witte Museum of the San Antonio Museum Association, 1993.

Sturgis, Hollister. Angels and Urchins: Images of Children at the Joslyn. Omaha, NE: Joslyn Art Museum, 1981.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Painting and Sculpture. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1991.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, Donna Poulton, and Janie Rogers. 150 Years Survey: Utah Art and Utah Artists. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2001.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books, 1991.

Troccoli, Joan C. Painters and the American West: the Anschutz Collection. Denver, CO: Denver Art Museum, 2000.

Vincent, Stephen. O California!: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century California Landscapes and Observations. San Francisco, CA: Bedford Arts, 1990.

Periodicals

Houston, Joe. "American Views from Rockford Museum." American Art Review, vol. 3. (May/June 2001).

Mather, Frank J. "The Expanding Arena." Magazine of Art, vol. 39, (November 1946): 305.

 Last Modified 9/3/14