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Verso University Presents: Japanese Woodblock Prints: Great Beauties, Great Waves, Great Tales

Wed, April 10 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am EDT

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Have you ever wondered how the iconic Great Wave was actually made? Or who the women in Utamaro’s Three Great Beauties were and how they lived? Curious about prints of kabuki actors striking a pose, or why Monet and Van Gogh collected Japanese prints?

Join us for a Verso University series on Japanese Woodblock Prints: Great Beauties, Great Waves, Great Tales, occurring on every other Wednesday morning from 10 to 11:30 am, starting on March 27 and ending on May 8. The course will meet in the Library's Komansky Program Room.

This course introduces you to Japanese woodblock prints of the Edo period (1615-1868) and beyond. It will explore the techniques, subjects, historical context, and contemporary interpretations of this wildly popular artform over four course sessions. In addition to slides, we will look at original prints brought in for close study during each class.

The course is taught by Ive Covaci, adjunct professor of art history at Fairfield University, and co-chair of Westport Public Art Collections.

Session 1: Overview & Context
What are Japanese woodblock prints? What was Japan like during the Edo period (1615-1868) when this artform flourished? How are prints related to other Japanese arts? How did these prints influence Western artists in the late 19th century?

Session 2: Artists, Materials, and Techniques
How are these prints actually made, and who were the artists? How did techniques and materials change over time? Why is the Great Wave and its contemporaries so blue? What do “original” “reprint” and “recut” editions mean in Japanese prints?

Session 3: Subjects and Genres
How do prints reflect the fashions, trends, and popular urban entertainments of the Edo period? Why do so many landscape prints suddenly appear in the 19th century? How did artists illustrate and parody classic literary tales? Why were prints periodically subject to government censorship?

Session 4: Modern and Contemporary Prints
How do artists in the 20th and 21st century reinterpret the techniques, styles, and common subjects of “traditional” Japanese woodblock prints? What was the “creative prints” movement in the mid-20th century in Japan? What contemporary artists work in this medium today, in both Japan and the West?

About the Instructor:

A specialist in Japanese art, Ive Covaci has been teaching Asian art history at Fairfield University since 2010, where she received the 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award for Undergraduate Adjunct Faculty. She holds a PhD in art history from Yale University, and an MA in East Asian studies and BA in art history from Stanford University. She has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions, including Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan (Asia Society Museum, New York, 2016), Gifts of Gold: Japanese Lacquer Boxes (Fairfield University Art Museum, 2020), and Ink/Stone (Fairfield University Art Museum, 2022). She lectures regularly at the Fairfield University Art Museum, and has presented at institutions such as the Wadsworth Atheneum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and San Diego Museum of Art.

A resident of Westport for the past 13 years, Ive is currently co-chair of the Westport Public Art Collections (WestPAC), and has been a member of the WestPAC Committee since 2016. She is passionate about teaching and learning with original works of art.

Image credits:

Kitagawa Utamaro, Three Beauties of the Present Day, ca. 1793; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston https://collections.mfa.org/download/234047

Katsushika Hokusai, Under the Wave off Kanagawa, ca. 1830–32; Metropolitan Museum of Art; https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/45434

Utagawa Kunisada, Danjūrō VII's Benkei as Fudō Myōō, ca 1824; Metropolitan Museum of Art; https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/54383



  • Classes are structured as a consecutive series.
  • Class size is limited.
  • Each series has a one time fee registration fee of  $25, covering all classes in the series.
  • Registration is mandatory.
  • The Westport Library wants to ensure that all interested students are able to participate in Verso University courses. If the registration fee is a barrier to entry for you, please contact [email protected].


Verso University is the Library’s lifelong learning and education initiative, serving up year-round offerings of classes, workshops, and lectures designed to further education and learning. Offerings run the gamut of educational opportunities, ranging from one-time lectures to ongoing courses to classes that meet weekly or perhaps monthly.

Verso University programs are made possible by the generous support of the Nancy J. Beard Lifelong Learning and Education Fund.

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