Girls Playing Kickball

By Asa Marshall

The artwork I saw at the Freer Gallery was “Girls Playing Kickball,” which portrayed a scene from the Tale of Genji, which is a great work of literature written by Murasaki Shikibu in 1008. This piece visualized the scene when the courtier, Kashiwagi, is playing kickball and he sees the Third Princess behind bamboo blinds, but in this painting the gender roles are reversed with a man watching a group of girls playing the game.

This piece was made by Kawamata Tsuneyuki in the 18th century, which is considered the Edo period of Japan. The story behind this work interested me partly because I love the Tale of Genji. The fact that the gender roles were reversed in this revisited version of artwork was interesting because I wondered why the artist made this alteration. To me it gave an impactful presence, because oftentimes women are spotted by men, but seeing the women active and engaging in sport activities, while the man being more hidden and reserved, is very different to other artworks where women would be portrayed as the more subtle character. It was a great contrast to what ideals would be considered more traditional and I like the simplicity of the artwork.

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