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Gutzon Borglum
(1867-1941)

The link from Mount Rushmore to Denmark

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John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was an American sculptor, born in Idaho, to Danish parents. The original Danish family name was Břrglum, originating from a small village of the same name, located in the region of Vendsyssel in the Northern part of Jutland. 

The village, situated in a rather arid part of Denmark, houses a medieval monastery. 

  • Denmark 1980. Borglum Monastery. The stamp is engraved by Czeslaw Slania. 

Denmark 1980. Borglum Monastery. The stamp is engraved by Czeslaw Slania. 

Borglum was raised in California and trained in Paris at the Académie Julian, where he came to know Auguste Rodin, and was much influenced by Rodin's dynamic impressionistic light-catching surfaces. Back in the U.S., in New York he sculpted about a hundred saints and apostles for the new Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in 1901, and got also a sculpture accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first sculpture by a living American the museum had ever purchased, and made his presence further felt with some well-placed portraits. Very soon he had a national reputation. 

USA 2002. Greetings stamp from South Dakota. Mount Rushmore, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum. 

Borglum is most famous for creating the monumental Presidents' Heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. He designed the first of these, a Confederate memorial on Stone Mt., Ga., and began carving it in 1916. 

The work was interrupted by World War I but was resumed in 1924. As the result of an acrimonious controversy with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, he ceased working and destroyed his models. 

  • USA 2002. Greetings stamp from South Dakota. Mount Rushmore, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum. 

Moving to South Dakota, Borglum began work on the gigantic Mount Rushmore National Memorial in 1927. One of the largest sculptural projects in existence, the memorial was also a great engineering feat. Borglum had nearly finished the 60-ft (18.3-m) heads of the four presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) when he died. Plans for an even more ambitious composition were abandoned and the work was finished (1941) by his son Lincoln. Borglum is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale in the Memorial Court of Honor. His second wife, Mary Montgomery Williams Borglum, 1874–1955, is interred by his side. 

The link back to Denmark, the land of his ancestors, consists of the gigantic Legoland Amusement Park, located in Central Jutland, which contains -- among many other world famous monuments -- a huge miniature sculpture of Mount Rushmore, fully constructed of Lego Bricks.  

USA 1959. Lincoln Sesquicentennial Issue. Abraham Lincoln sculpted by Gutzon Borglum.

Denmark, Legoland. Webmaster's private photograph of Mount Rushmore Memorial, constructed of Lego Bricks. 

Denmark 1989. Europa Stamp. Toys for Children. Lego Bricks. 

Borglum’s studio, located near the Mount Rushmore Memorial, displays plaster models and tools used in creating the statues. 

A fascination with gigantic scale and themes of heroic nationalism suited Borglum's extroverted personality. His head of Abraham Lincoln, carved from a six-ton block of marble, was exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt's White House, and can be found in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. A bully patriot, believing that the "monuments we have built are not our own," he looked to create art that was "American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement" according to a 1908 interview article. 

Other than Denmark a few more countries have issued stamps featuring the LEGO-bricks. Such stamps are not related to Gutzon Borglum and Mt. Rushmore, but are shown here for the sake of completeness. 

Gibraltar 1996. Christmas stamps with Christmas symbols made in LEGO-bricks. Stamp #1 of five. Gibraltar 1996. Christmas stamps with Christmas symbols made in LEGO-bricks. Stamp #2 of five. Gibraltar 1996. Christmas stamps with Christmas symbols made in LEGO-bricks. Stamp #3 of five. Gibraltar 1996. Christmas stamps with Christmas symbols made in LEGO-bricks. Stamp #4 of five. Gibraltar 1996. Christmas stamps with Christmas symbols made in LEGO-bricks. Stamp #5 of five.

Isle of Man 1989. Children's Games. LEGO-bricks.

In 1989 the Island of Man issued a set of four stamps dedicated to Children's Games. The stamps are printed in a block of four with two horizontal rows of stamps in a se-tenant design. 

The stamp in the lower row, far left, shows a boy and girl with various games and toys, and a house built of LEGO-bricks. 

The thee remaining stamps in the set are not related to LEGO. 

  • Isle of Man 1989. Children's Games. LEGO-bricks. 

Seen through my Danish eyes the impact that LEGO-bricks has had on children throughout the world in their general creativity, is quite impressive. Even if today LEGO is considered rather old-fashioned compared to modern "toys", such as computers and the possibilities they offer, LEGO is likely to stay on the market for many years to come. 

Other Expressionist sculptors on this website:

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