Tonko Maroević, a writer and an art critic
Tonko Maroević was a Croatian writer, art historian, critic and translator. He was an avid reader and explainer, a passionate art follower and one of the most prominent contemporary intellectuals in Croatia.
Academician Maroević was a well-known and favourite figure from the streets of Zagreb. With an easy step, he conquered the city streets on foot and mostly read simultaneously. The poet Krešimir Bagić described him: ‘He is a versatile intellectual, passionate reader, refined commentator who has a vast supply of knowledge, associations, understanding, beautiful words and praise’.Published at Ziher.hr
Tonko Maroević was born in Split on the 22nd of October 1941. He graduated in 1963 in comparative literature and art history, and in 1976 he received his doctorate, both at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.
The theme of his doctorate was Fine Arts in Croatian Literature from Modern to the Present (published as a book in 2007 entitled Written Paintings). Art was his passion and he devoted his life to translating it for the general public.
After he finished his studies, he worked as an assistant in the Department of Art History. He stayed there until 1970. From 1970 until his retirement in 2011, he worked at the Institute of Art History in Zagreb. For him, retirement was just a milestone, since he was working until the very end of his life. He died in Stari Grad (Hvar) on 11th August 2020.
He was a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts since 2002 and won the Vladimir Nazor Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013 and the Goran’s Wreath Award (Croatian: Nagrada Goranov vijenac) for the entire poetic opus in 2018. He was also a corresponding member of the Slovenian and Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2011, and 2015, respectively.
Tonko Maroević was a poet from the beginning of his career. He wrote two poems in prose, Examples (Croatian: Primjeri, 1965) and Blind Eye (Croatian: Slijepo oko, 1969). Later, he became more interested in classical poetry and traditional forms, for instance in Trail of the Horn, Not Without the Devil (Croatian: Trag roga, ne bez vraga, 1987), Black & Light: verses of Occasion (Croatian: Black & Light: versi od prigode, 1995) and Row of Sludge, Row of Foam (Croatian: Redak mulja, redak pjene, 2013).
As a literary critic, he followed contemporary Croatian poetry, and also took interest in older Croatian literature. He wrote essays, critiques and reviews, which he collected and published in several books from 1987 to 2010. He also compiled anthologies of Croatian poetry from 1971 to 1995.
Maroević translated from French, Spanish and Italian. He enabled Croatian readers to enjoy the works of Dante Alighieri, Federico García Lorca, and Francesco Petrarca, among others. In 2005, he published hitherto unpublished essays about reading under the name Borges’s Reader (Croatian: Borgeseov čitatelj).
On Contemporary Croatian Art
He was a passionate follower of Croatian art and artists. And maybe the best known for this part of his work. He was publishing art criticism and essays in professional publications and newspapers and wrote prefaces to catalogues and graphic maps.
Many of those works were collected and published in the book Painting and Painting Preface: Written Portraits (Croatian: Slikanje i slikama predgovaranje: pisani portreti, 2006). The name is a word-play and a reference to one Croatian literary classic Fishing and Fishermen’s Talk (Croatian: Ribanje i ribarsko prigovaranje) written by a poet Petar Hektorović. Some of the artists mentioned in this book are painters Marino Tartaglia, Edo Murtić, Josip Vaništa, Miroslav Šutej and many others.
Maroević wrote more complex works, too. He is an author of monographs about important Croatian contemporary artists. For instance, he wrote about Nives Kavurić-Kurtović, Zlatko Kauzlarić Atač, Vojin Bakić and Antun Zuppa.