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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: George Catlin: Ball-play of the Choctaw--Ball Up
Ball-play of the Choctaw--Ball Up


Ball-play of the Choctaw--Ball Up
1846-50
George Catlin
oil on canvas
25 3/4 x 32 in. (65.4 x 81.4 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
1985.66.428a
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In 1834, George Catlin witnessed Choctaw lacrosse in Indian Territory near present-day Oklahoma, and was captivated by the game. He described ball-play as “a school for the painter or sculptor, equal to any of those which ever inspired the hand of the artist in the Olympian games or the Roman forum.” Lacrosse, which involved a no-holds-barred struggle for the ball, was a physical, even violent, game called “little brother of war” in Choctaw.


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