Claude Viallat, a renowned French artist, made significant contributions to the Support/Surfaces movement. Born in Nîmes, he grew up in Aubais, a village known for its strong bull tradition. After joining the École des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier in 1955, Viallat encountered influential artists such as André-Pierre Arnal, Vincent Bioulès, and Daniel Dezeuze. In 1962, he married Henriette Pous, further cementing his connection to the art world.
Following his military service in Algeria from 1958 to 1961, Viallat moved to Paris and enrolled in the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. It was there that he discovered American art, becoming particularly enamored with the works of Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Sam Francis, and Mark Rothko. In 1963, Viallat delved into abstraction, ultimately developing a distinctive artistic language.
In 1964, he became a teacher at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Nice and embarked on challenging the conventions of classical painting. His groundbreaking approach involved working with a single shape affixed directly to canvas without stretchers. Viallat held his first solo exhibition at Galerie A in Nice in 1966 and also participated in several group exhibitions that year.
Viallat's career progressed as he joined the École des Beaux-Arts in Limoges in 1967, where he encountered Raoul Hausmann. The following year, he had his inaugural solo exhibition at Jean Fournier's gallery in Paris and played a significant role in the Support/Surfaces movement. However, due to disagreements regarding political and theoretical orientations, he resigned from the movement in 1971.
Throughout his career, Viallat continued to expand his artistic horizons. During his initial visit to the United States in 1972, he was profoundly influenced by the works of Jackson Pollock and Native American art. His international recognition grew, with notable exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Grand Palais in Paris.
Viallat's artistic journey led him to various teaching positions, including at the École des Beaux-Arts in Luminy, Marseille, in 1973. He later became the director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Nîmes in 1979, where he began collecting objects associated with bull traditions. This collection served as the foundation for the Musée des Cultures Taurines in Nîmes, which opened its doors in 1986.
Throughout his illustrious career, Viallat achieved numerous accolades and milestones. In 1982, the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou hosted a retrospective of his work, and in 1988, he represented France at the Venice Biennial. Additionally, he was awarded the Fondation Simone et Cino del Duca prize for painting by the Fine Arts Academy in 2006. Viallat's work continues to be represented by galleries in France and internationally, ensuring his lasting impact on the art world.