In 1932, the poet and writer Hanns Heinen (1895-1961) acquired a timber-framed property comprising two historic buildings in the city of Solingen in the Bergisch region of Germany. In the larger of the two buildings, known as “the Black House”, a salon was established at the behest of the house’s artistic mistress – Erna Heinen-Steinhoff (1898-1969).
In 1945, Erwin Johannes Bowien (1899-1972), who was returning from exile, became the first artist to move into the colony. This house, with its small studio next door, known as the “Red House”, became his permanent address until the mid 1960s, from which he hiked across the entire Berg region and captured it on canvas. Afterwards, Erwin Bowien divided his time between Solingen and Weil am Rhein. Countless journeys across Germany with one main focus: to depict the Rhine from its source to mouth with particular attention paid to the large cathedrals along the river. As a regular traveller, he departed on extended trips to Switzerland and Norway.
He discovered the talent of his young housemate, daughter of the house Bettina Heinen-Ayech (1937-2020), who would slowly become his pupil from 1950 onwards. In 1955 came the Hamburg-born artist Amud Uwe Millies (1932-2008), who became the third and final artist to move into the colony. From 1969 to 1971, the sculptor Ernst Egon Osländer (1928-2015) lived and worked on the estate.
The artist Bettina Heinen-Ayech was the last. She remained there until her death, in the houses where she ran her German studio, while alternating between Solingen and her other home in Guelma, Algeria.
The three artists, Bettina, Bowien and Amud, inspired each other and were energetically encouraged and supported by Hanns Heinen and Erna Heinen-Steinhoff. This artist’s colony is unique in the Bergisch region and represents a very special piece of post-war art history.