Artist
Gutzon Borglum
American artist and sculptor

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Gutzon Borglum
American artist and sculptor
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Birth Date

March 25, 1867

Death Date

March 06, 1941

Works by Gutzon Borglum

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Contributor

Née John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, he shortened it down to trip off the tongue more easily as he became better known as an artist (you know, like “Cher.”)

He was born to Mormon Danish immigrants in Idaho, and his father was married to both his mom AND her older sister. When the family moved to Omaha when Borglum was a young kid, his dad stayed legally married to his aunt, and his mother had to pose as hired help so that their new community wouldn’t suspect the family of polygamy. Borglum was always ashamed of his family history, and wove elaborate yarns about his mother’s untimely death to cover up the truth. Sounds like family dramz.

He was pretty good at carving historical figures in rocks. So good, in fact, that when Abraham Lincoln’s son saw Borglum’s giant sculpture of the late president’s head (different one from Rushmore), he proclaimed, “I never expected to see father again.”

Borglum was a fairly unsavory character in that he had affiliations with the KKK, though it’s unclear whether or not he ever officially joined. After its dormancy following the Civil War, the Klan was resurrected atop Stone Mountain, the site of an epic sculpture of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee that Borglum had been commissioned to work on near Atlanta (the Klan helped finance the project, which eventually fell through due to funding problems and clashing personalities). Borglum had some messed up views about non-white, non-Christian people, whom he feared would threaten the “Nordic” purity of white Christian western-ness. Makes sense that old white guys were the typical subjects of his sculptures.

Narcissistically, he wanted his art to be “…built into, cut into, the crust of this earth so that those records would have to melt or by wind be worn to dust before the record…could, as Lincoln said, ‘perish from the earth.’” Oh, please.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. “Sculptor Gutzon Borglum.” National Park Service. April 19, 2017. Accessed July 30, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/moru/learn/historyculture/gutzon-borglum.htm
  2. Shaer, Matthew. “The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore.” Smithsonian.com. October 2016. Accessed July 30, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/sordid-history-mount-rushmore-1809...
  3. Taliaferro, John. “Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore.” (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002.) 87.
  4. “The Making of Mount Rushmore.” Smithsonian.com. October 30, 2011. Accessed July 30, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-making-of-mount-rushmore-12188...