Born in St. Charles, Idaho, in the Bear Lake Valley, in what was then the Idaho Territory in 1867, Borglum became famous for creating the monumental presidents’ heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.
Born into a Mormon polygamous family, his father, had two wives. Eventually young Borglum left the Mormon church to live in Omaha, Nebraska, working as a woodcarver. Eventually he graduated from medical school, practicing as a country doctor. He later apprenticed in a machine shop.
Borglum spent 10 years traveling, studying and exhibiting in Europe. He trained in Paris, where his works were exhibited. Returning to the United States, Borglum sculpted saints and apostles for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.
His other monumental works include a statue of American Civil War General Philip Sheridan; a carving of Civil War Confederate forces leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and “Stonewall” Jackson at Stone Mountain, GA.; and a head of Abraham Lincoln from a six-ton block of marble, exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. He looked to create art that was “American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement.”
The Mount Rushmore project lasted from 1927-1941. His first attempt with the face of Thomas Jefferson was blown up after two years. Dynamite was also used to remove large areas of rock from under Washington’s brow. The initial pair of presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson was soon joined by Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
Ivan Houser was assistant sculptor to Borglum in the early years of carving. When Houser left, Borglum’s son Lincoln took over as Assistant Sculptor to his father. After Gutzon Borglum died in Chicago, 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.
Source: Wikipedia 2018