Burgoyne Diller showed an interest in art at an early age. By the time he was a teenager, he had begun painting and drawing lessons. Though he attended Michigan State University on a track scholarship, he sustained his interests in art while in college by visiting the Art Institute of Chicago frequently. Diller became familiar with the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections there; in particular, he admired the works of Cezanne and Seurat. Diller was captivated by the sense of structure in Cezanne's work.
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In 1928 Diller enrolled at the Art Student's League, where he took courses in painting with Jan Matulka and Hans Hoffman. Hoffman had a particularly strong influence on Diller, emphasizing the "push-pull" effect produced by the play between colors and forms. In 1932 Diller participated in the first exhibit of abstract art that was held at the Art Student's League Gallery. In addition to his contact with the modernist artists in his classes, New York also afforded Diller the opportunity to see works of contemporary artists that he had previously known only through photographic reproductions of their work. The paintings that he produced during his student years reflected the currents of abstract art to which he was now exposed, particularly Cubism and the Bauhaus style of Kandinsky. Later, when Diller saw works by Mondrian at Albert E. Gallatin's Museum of Living Art, a greater sense of geometry began to assert itself within his art. Probably through reading the periodical Cashiers d'Art, Diller grew familiar with the art of the Russian Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich. Diller was also influenced abstraction that had its roots in Neoplasticism. Ultimately, Diller would blend aspects of these models into his own unique abstract style. Although Diller adhered to the basic vocabulary of Neoplasticism, with its emphasis on primary colors, and black and white on a grid-like rectilinear arrangement, he transformed these essential elements into a personal language, emphasizing spatial recession and overlapping planes.
In 1934 Katherine Drier contacted Diller about the possibility of gathering a group of abstract artists together for a possible show and creating a portfolio of their work. A group assembled, and while nothing germinated after this first attempt, the idea of a creative alliance among abstract artists was eventually realized in the formation of the American Abstract Artists. The portfolio of lithographs produced by the AAA in 1937 may owe its conception to Drier's original idea.
Perhaps Diller's greatest contribution to the cause of abstract art came through his administrative role in the Works Progress Administration. When he was named the managing supervisor of the Works Progress Administration - Federal Art Project Mural Division in 1935, he became responsible for finding sponsors for federally supported artists. As a champion of abstract art, Diller was able to find commissions for painters whose nonrepresentational art might not have otherwise found an audience. As such, his role as an advocate for abstract art cannot be overstated. It is often noted that Diller's importance to the AAA was critical, even though his contacts with members occurred largely outside the context of their organization.
In 1939 Diller was named the WPA liaison to the New York World's Fair. During World War II, he worked in the WPA's War Service Section. Following the war, Diller joined the design department at Brooklyn College, where he taught until his death in 1965. Burgoyne Diller enjoyed continued success in his artistic career through his life, however after his death the popularity of his work greatly increased. A man ahead of his time, Diller's work became greatly appreciated by the minimalist artists of the late 1960's and 1970's.