Known for his avant-garde style, contemporary surrealist Charles Billich is Australia’s foremost living world artist. A painter, draftsman and sculptor, Charles Billich enjoys many accolades from the Olympics, the Red Cross, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Rugby World Cup, the AFL Centenary and the Grand Prix, to the Vatican and the Playboy Mansion.
He painted portraits of celebrities, sports heroes, members of the royal family and even the Pope. He painted portraits of Princess Grace, Sophia Loren, Ian Thorpe, Nelson Mandela and legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. He painted Michael Jackson for the Jackson family, and Billich’s paintings adorn the walls of the Vatican, the White House and the UN. He also had an exhibition at the UN headquarters with a picture of the ‘Tragedy of Bleiburg’. The Dali Universe considers him the successor of Salvador Dali and he is the only artist ever to be exhibited alongside Dali’s works.
He was born on September 6, 1934 in Lovran, Croatia, and many of Charles Billich’s themes are inspired by his life story. Billich’s ballet collections were inspired by his early life when he was a student dancer at the Opéra de Ballet in Rijeka.
During his student days, Billich wrote satirical articles for a local magazine. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for criticizing the Yugoslav communist regime, but after two years due to overcrowded prisons, he was amnestied on the condition that he no longer spoke against the Yugoslav regime.
Billich soon fled across the border and requested political asylum in Austria where he continued to study art at one of the best art schools in Salzburg.
He emigrated to Australia in 1956, where he began life in the Bonegilla migrant camp, where he worked briefly as an employment officer. After that, he continued his studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the National Gallery School of Victoria.
Starting his artistic career in Melbourne, Billich became popular and known as a local artist, and in 1985 he opened his first gallery, named the Billich Gallery. Under the management of his wife Christa Ostermann Billich, he became Australia’s most famous artist.
During his career, Billich won many high awards, including the 77th Shaolin Monk Honorary Award in Henan, China. He was presented with the keys to the city of Atlanta during the centennial of the 1996 Olympic Games, the prestigious white hat in Calgary, Canada, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama in 2002. He was awarded the USSA (United States Sports Academy) Gold Medal in 2003 as a Sports Artist for the Permanent Exhibition of Sports Art, the Gold Medal of the Order of the Crown presented to him by King George V of Tonga, and received the Florence Biennale Award in 2009 and many more others.
Especially known for his pop-rock star style, Billich always captivates audiences around the world with his dazzling style and what he delivers with masterful brushstrokes on canvas.
Daring to step outside the confines of the art establishment, the diversity and drive to push boundaries has seen Billich’s work praised by high-profile collectors, including political leaders, celebrities and succeeds in winning hearts and wider communities from the Vatican to the Cote d’Azur in Monaco.
Charles Billich and his wife Christa are both great philanthropists, contributing to various important charities in Australia, around the world and in Croatia. Charles and Christa Billich are also passionate about encouraging and nurturing young talent.
A feature-length documentary is dedicated to Charles Billich, which highlights his colorful style, takes us back to the story of his youth, the theft of art in his native Lovran and other injustices he was exposed to. The film entitled ‘Billich: Beyond The Canvas’ was directed and produced by world-renowned Australian-Croatian producer and director Steve Ravic. The documentary premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Croatian premiere was held in Dubrovnik.