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Gutzom Borglum

Sculptor, painter. 1867 - 1941

Born March 25, 1867, in Idaho, Gutzom Borglum was the son of Danish immigrants; his father was a woodcarver. At a young age the family moved to Nebraska. There he observed American Indians and nurtured his fascination for horses. Borglum attended Creighton Preparatory School in Nebraska and when his family moved to Omaha, he went to study at St. Marys College west of Topeka, Kansas.

It was a young sentimental Borglum who in the 1880s painted two pastoral scenes, which would be used to decorate the elegant home of Topeka stock breeder Erasmus Bennett. Borglum's growing interest in painting the sculptures diverted him, and he soon left Kansas and ultimately learned from the masters and throughout Europe. He studied at the Académie Julian, and came to know impressionist Auguste Rodin. Borglum was inspired by the artist's use of light. He returned to the United States, creating sculptures in 1901 for the new Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York, and in 1906 a group sculpture was accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His sculpture of Abraham Lincoln's head was created during President Theodore Roosevelt's administration and is on display in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. His statue of Civil War General Philip Sheridan is located in Sheridan Circle in Washington, D.C.

As a mature artist, Borglum proclaimed that "art in America should be American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement." The finely sculpted faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore illustrate America on a grand scale. Under construction from 1927 to 1941, Borglum's son Lincoln assisted with the work, which he completed after his father's death.  Borglum, who died March 6, 1941.

Entry: Borglum, Gutzom

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: March 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.