Dubrovnik is a Painting, Not a Postcard or a Selfie – Meet Maro Kriste

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Miso Mihocevic

Meet Maro Kriste, Dubrovnik’s brilliant painter of the moment.

In the déjà vu part of my life (I think I was a very rich nobleman, quite the opposite to what I am in this incarnation), I often try to imagine how ”we” lived back then, before anything in the communication sector was invented.

For example, if somebody wrote some manuscript, a book, what was the procedure and how long did it take before it became known in wider public?

When I see some masterpiece painting from ”my time”, I try to imagine the earthly life of its author – how he began painting, what he ate in a ”studio” full of dust, no heating, smelling of turpentine and chicken broth or something. And how he developed his skills – there were no schools, no art academies etc. Well, yes, each started as an apprentice with a ”master” and most probably did most of the work we now know as that of his master’s.

Practice is the way. What was his world? Did the society and politics affect his existence and to what extent? There were no bank accounts, either. Cash only. Which certainly was the best part of the whole thing, when it occurred.

Nowadays, however, with all the communication means available, a painter can e-mail (samples of) his work around from his smart phone (if he can afford one), and so on. Yet, in principle and in despite, it seems to me that there are no artists any more – rather, there are managers who paint, write, compose, who must do the marketing, live personal contacts, presentations, updates on social networks, find targets on the market, potential customers and so forth. It’s the same when people create a new refrigerator, only the market is much, much narrower. And a fridge is much more essential than a painting.

Well, sorry for this extensive introduction, but the other day I very much enjoyed a long cup of coffee with a brilliant painter and man of art.

His name is Maro Kriste, from an old Dubrovnik family (by he way, Maro is also the uncle of that extraordinary water polo player, Jacob Mercep, who we wrote about this summer, if you remember). Maro’s father was a sailor, more absent than present at home, but providing a good, comfortable life to his family. At one of his holidays from work, he noticed how Maro, 4 or 5 years old then, spent lots of time squatted on the floor, drawing incessantly on paper bags, newspapers margins, on pretty much anything he could get his hands on.

The two went to a prominent gallery and art shop to get Maro some colours.

”When I saw what they had there, all those crayons, watercolours, tubes in million shades, boxes, brushes, I almost fainted. It was like entering the best perfume shop in the world! I wanted my dad to buy me literally all they had, but he said he didn’t have that kind of money. I thought he was lying to me, as he was a sailor and we had more money than the people in our neighbourhood. I couldn’t wait to get home. As soon as my parents withdrew for their afternoon nap, I decided I would paint something important to impress them and to prove to my father he was wrong in not having bought me the entire shop.

Photo by Maro Mitrovic


I painted a big fish in hundreds of hues. My parents were startled! But then, some time later, my dad didn’t want to get me more things which I adamantly required, and I ”punished” him by tearing my first big work to shreds. For several years, however, I have very much regretted it, it was the starting gun for my career, in fact. I would give all the paintings I’ve ever done for my beautiful first fish.”

Maro went to school, not overly interested in any other subject other than art.

The war came, it didn’t pass without its traumas on the sensitive artistic soul of a young boy. Throughout high school, his only true interest was reduced to painting, to which he dedicated every moment possible.

Photo by Maro Mitrovic


Having graduated from Dubrovnik’s School of Arts, Maro tried to get into an academy, and managed to enrol only after private interventions as his overall ”success” in all other subjects was not quite brilliant.

”I was lucky to have had teachers to whom I could oppose, and discuss anything concerning art with – the metier, techniques etc. Dispute in art is so vital, it broadens and deepens your vision of the world around you. I have developed a need to observe nature in its proportions and ratios, like, what is the ratio between a boat and a wave, a tree and a stair, a car and a wall, etc, how much is something bigger or smaller than something else.”

His family has a nice sailing boat, not of a recent date, a hugely important item that provides more views, more proportions, and more colours.

”I still have that first box my father bought me at the gallery. I keep my fishing hooks in it, but it is much more important than being just an old box. It is a keepsake to remind me of how I began on this uncertain venture of being a painter. Although I could never be anything else.”

An artist – manager, or vice versa.

Photo by Maro Mitrovic


”I have been working on my new exhibition for quite a while now. I use so much of my time contacting people and institutions, and I have to sell in order to be able to go on. One canvas with a frame of high quality and other props needed for one painting can amount up to 200,00 euros. An exhibition requires at least 30 works, in other words, 6000,00 euros in total. Not easy, is it?”

Maro loves music, too. Used to love, rather…

”I love(d) the opera. I could listen to an opera for nights after days (Maro is a night owl). I love Verdi. In those days when my time was not absorbed by fighting for my existence, I even painted his portrait. Opera requires time and concentration, relaxation and carelessness, which I don’t have any more. The opera had to be sacrificed.”

Maro Kriste is highly respected by his colleagues as well. They share the opinion that Dubrovnik, immortalised on thousands of canvases by thousands of painters, has got its new interpreter whose unusual colours emphasise its eternal harmony and spirit. Under his brush his beloved city plays in giddy rhythms of millions of hues, under unimaginable angles, while remaining itself in everybody’s eye.

Photo by Maro Mitrovic


Just to note: Maro does have a smart phone, but cannot afford a web site of his own. If you are curious about his artistic gems, just Google him.

Maro is very special, trust me. He thinks that his paintings are always found by those who they are cosmically meant for. Maybe it’s you!?

Photo by Maro Mitrovic


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