Mar. 25, 1867 Saint Charles Bear Lake County Idaho, USA
Mar. 3, 1941 Chicago Cook County Illinois, USA
Artist. Best known for being the Mount Rushmore sculptor. He was born John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum in Idaho to a Danish immigrant who embraced the Mormon religion and immediately acquired two wives who were sisters. When Borglum was 4, his father, a frontier doctor, left the church, discarding young Borglum's mother so he could return to society with only one wife and a brood of children. The father was a wanderlust moving first to Omaha and then to Los Angeles where he set up a medical practice. Young Gutzon began to paint portraits and landscapes with great success and opened up his own art studio in the basement of The Times building in downtown Los Angeles. He was commissioned by the Times publisher to construct an eagle to adorn the top of the building. The finished product sculpt from wood weighed 200 pounds with a wingspan of 7 feet. It perched atop three Times buildings. Showing extreme wear, it was moved inside to protect it from decay and it can be seen today in the lobby of the Times building on Broadway. His career was moved forward by a strange marriage to a woman twice his age, an artist in her own right. His work attracted the backing of socialite, Mrs Spencer H. Smith who invested heavily in his talents and paid for his art training in Europe where Borglum learned sculpting in Paris. In 1893, Borglum and his wife returned to Los Angeles lured by the climate and a commission for three landscapes from former California Gov. Leland Stanford. They set up studio in the foothills of Sierra Madre in the outskirts of the city. By 1896, he was nearly 30 and broke. Returning to Europe, spending six years before returning minus his wife. he met Mary Montgomery on the return Atlantic crossing whom he would eventually marry. He began working in earnest, within a span of ten years he created a marble bust of Lincoln which can be seen today in the Capitol rotunda; sculpted more than 100 pieces for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. In 1915 he was commissioned to carve a 1,200 foot long relief of Confederate soldiers on Georgia's Stone Mountain by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, on land that was owned by the head of the Ku Klux Klan. He abandoned the project after a quarrel and left for South Dakota. The work was completed by others but not until 1970. South Dakota needed a tourist attraction and in 1927 Borglum was commissioned to carve the 60 foot high heads of four presidents all selected by the artist himself. He labored for 14 years fighting for funding and struggling against personal bankruptcy and public indifference. In 1941 with the project almost completed, he suffered a heart attack a few days before his 74th birthday. His son, Lincoln, finished the project later that year, just prior to the start of WW II. His body was returned to Los Angeles and interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale in the Memorial Court of Honor. The four presidential heads of Mt. Rushmore are depicted in bronze on his plaque.