Sandnessjoen is a small town in northern Norway on the large island of Alsten in the Norwegian municipality of Alstahaug. It is situated some 50m south of the arctic circle and is known for its “Seven sisters” mountain range.
In the early 1950s, Erwin Bowien met Mrs Lillengen-Ruch, who was a Norwegian of Swiss origin. She spontaneously invited the artist on a painting trip to the Norwegian town of Gjøvik. The artist was so fascinated by the Norwegian landscape that he would later call it “his landscape”. For the first six years, Bowien would travel exclusively along lake Mjøsa. He later met Mr. Per Milde, who was from the town of Sandnessjoen.
The island on which Sandnessjoen is situated would soon become the most important destination in Norway for Bowien and his student Bettina. Many paintings and drawings were made in Norway.
Bowien wrote in his memoires: “...I came to know the trembling of 1000 birch leaves in the wind, and the midnight sun which lights up the sky throughout the night. When there is also moonlight, the trees become shadowless...” Bettina Heinen-Ayech soon acquired her own hut on the island of Alsten, the Bettina-Bo hut, at the foot of the Seven sisters. This hut became yet another outpost for the Black House colony in Solingen. The entire 1950s and 1960s were dedicated to the artists’ great Nordic journeys. Many large paintings were painted, particularly by Bettina Heinen-Ayech and Erwin Bowien. Their favourite motif was the Seven sisters mountains. Erwin Bowien would continue to travel to Norway until his death. Bettina would visit the area for the last time in 1975.
The municipality of Alstahaug houses an extensive collection of Erwin Bowien’s and Bettina Heinen-Ayech’s paintings.