Fine Art Tuesday

Yep, late again. Story in the next post.

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, more commonly known as Gutzon Borglum was the son of Danish immigrants to the United States, His parents were Mormon polygamists, and when his father decided to leave the religion and return to Omaha, NE, where polygamist was illegal, he took his first wife and young Gutzon along. In 1887 Gutzon Borglum was enrolled in St. Mary’s College in Kansas. Apparently that did not suit him, and he returned to Omaha and apprenticed himself in a machine shop while attending Creighton Preparatory School. After that, he was off to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. Following that, it was back to the US, to New York City, where he was a sculptor working on Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. His career took him west, then South. During these travels he became fascinated with sculptures of gigantic scales with themes of “heroic nationalism”.

His first work of this sort was the beginnings of the Stone Mountain, GA for a “high-relief frieze of Lee, Jefferson Davis, and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson riding around the mountain, followed by a legion of artillery troops.” His penchant for perfection and a domineering, authoritarian personality finally brought on a break with the financial sponsors (which included the KKK and the United Daughters of the Confederacy) of the project, in which he smashed all his models and left Georgia permanently in 1925.

By 1927, Borglum had made his way to South Dakota, where he began the piece he is know for, Mount Rushmore. He died in 1941 from complications of surgery, with Mount Rushmore nearly in the state we see it today.

Borglum also completed other works during his life. As a North Carolinian and the descendent of Confederate soldiers, I’m partial to his sculpture now displayed at the Gettysburg Battlefield, the “North Carolina Monument“. It portrays the men of North Carolina as they stormed Cemetery Ridge.

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