At the Art Students League, Diller discovered inspiration in the Russian Constructivist work of Kazimir Malevich and other artists including De Stijl, Piet Mondrian, and Theo van Doesburg. Diller also was greatly influenced by teachers Hans Hofmann and Jan Matulka, both of whom encouraged Diller’s exploration of pure colour and form. As a student Diller demonstrated leadership qualities, often coordinating exhibitions at the Art Students League. In 1933 he organized a show of avant-guard student work, exhibiting for the first time a group of emerging post-war American Cubists.
In the Early 1930’s Diller began making Geometric art. It was during this time that his artistic style transformed from cubism to non-objective neo-plasticism. And in 1933 he mounted a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum in New York City. The introduction in the catalogue was written by Hans Hofmann.
On graduating from the Art Students League in 1934 he began working for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and then the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), as a muralist and easel painter. Both of these committees were set up in the New York City area - their aim was to provide much needed employment to artists. In addition, Diller founded the artist group called “Group A” in 1934.
A year later, Diller was appointed director of the New York City PWPA Mural Division. During a time of national economic turmoil when jobs were few and far between, Diller found work for hundreds of artists. Many of the artists employed by Diller later became some of the most important early 20-century names such as Arshile Gorky (1904-1948) and Stuart Davis (1894-1964). As director he supervised the execution of over 200 public murals.
As a fervent advocate for Abstract Art, Diller became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group on March 12, 1936. The American Abstract Artist group held their first exhibition at the Squibb Galleries, less than a month after Diller was initiated. In 1937, Burgoyne Diller became sole administrator of the PWPA's mural division, putting him in charge of mural programs for public schools, colleges, libraries, municipal buildings, and hospitals. Despite increased responsibility at work, Diller continued to work diligently at his own art, even broadening his body of work. It was during this time that Diller began to make relief sculptures, combining flat painted grounds and projecting elements in low relief.
Diller worked for the PWPA until the outbreak of World War II, when he served time in the Navy. In 1946, after his time in the Navy, he became a professor at Brooklyn College. The roles of student and teacher were now reversed for Diller, and he received the chance to teach and inspire an entire generation of abstract artists.
Decades of heavy drinking had taken their toll on Diller, and he died in 1965 in New York. Diller will always be remembered as a one of the most significant artists devoted to geometric abstraction, and a true pioneer of American modernism.
|1930 Untitled ink on paper 34.6 x 21.6 cm|
|1931 Untitled crayon on paper 49.5 x 30.5 cm|
|1932 Untitled (Three Men with Hats in City Street) lino cut 25.9 x 30.7 cm © VAGA, New York, NY|
|1933 Early Geometric oil on canvas 68.6 x 104.1 cm|
|1934 Construction painted wood & fibreboard 60.8 x 60.8 cm|
|1934 Construction painted wood & fibreboard 61.1 x 61.2 cm|
|c1934 Early Geometric oil on canvas 50.8 x 61 cm|
|1936 Early Geometric #492 oil on canvas 45.7 x 57.2 cm|
|1937 Second Theme|
|1938 511-1938-Group 3 pencil & crayon on tracing paper 31.8 x 30.5 cm|
|1938 Construction mixed media|
|1938-39 Third Theme collage & watercolour on board 38.1 x 38.1 cm|
|1940 Construction painted wood 68.3 x 22.6 x 22.6 cm|
|1946-48 Third Theme oil on canvas 106.7 x 106.7 cm|
|1947 903-47 crayon & pencil on paper 14 x 14.2 cm|
|1947 Untitled graphite & crayon on paper 31.8 x 31.1 cm|
|1948 Untitled graphite & crayon on paper 22.2 x 17.8 cm|
|1949 Second Theme oil on canvas 66 x 66 cm © Estate of Burgoyne Diller/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY|
|c1955-60 No. 2, First Theme oil on canvas 52.3 x 122.2 cm|
|1958-60 No. 29, First Theme oil on canvas 86.4 x 86.5 cm|
|1961 Untitled graphite & crayon on paper 34.9 x 42.5 cm|
|1962 First Theme #4 oil on canvas 106.7 x 106.7 cm|
|1962 Interplay ( No. 3, Second Theme) oil on canvas 107.1 x 106.9 cm|
|1962 No. 20, First Theme oil on canvas 106.7 x 106.9 cm|
|1962 Untitled graphite, crayon & pastel on paper 35.6 x 27.9 cm|
|1963 Collage Studies for Project for Granite collage & graphite on paper 35.6 x 50.8 cm|
|1963 First Theme oil on canvas 228.6 x 96.5 cm|
|1963 No. 37, Second Theme oil on canvas 106.9 x 107 cm|
|1963-64 First Theme oil on canvas 182.9 x 182.9 cm|
|1964 Untitled collage on masonite 27.9 x 35.6 cm|
|1964 Untitled graphite & crayon on paper 35.6 x 27.9 cm|
|before 1965 Red and Blue Bars pencil & coloured pencil on paper 34.9 x 35.1 cm|
|Study for Counter-Composition|
|Untitled (Second Theme) crayon on black paper 15.7 x 17.3 cm|