The Solingen Artists' Colony "Black House" owes its origins to the commitment and attraction of intellectuals and free spirits. First and foremost to the work of a very educated, self-confident and emancipated lady, Erna Heinen-Steinhoff (1898-1969), who, as a muse of the arts, created, cultivated and developed a literary salon in the manner of the 19th century in Solingen at the beginning of the 1920s, a meeting place for painters, writers, musicians and intellectuals. Together with her husband, the business journalist and art-loving lyricist Hanns Heinen (1895-1961), Erna Heinen-Steinhoff developed into an important patron of the arts. The literary protagonists of the "Black House" were joined over the years by three painters. Erwin Bowien (1899-1972), Bettina Heinen-Ayech (1937-2020) and Amud Uwe Millies (1932-2008). Together, the three painting protagonists of the colony formed the "painter triumvirate" of Solingen, which soon attracted general attention with its idiosyncratic artistry. They created portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and captured scenes of everyday life. They found their motifs in the green vegetation of the Bergisches Land and later on extended journeys together.
With a Museum Artists' Colony "Black House" Solingen, the identity of this special Artists' Colony can be made visible and experienced. It represents an important point of attraction for the city of Solingen and the regions of Bergisches Land and Rhineland.
The planned museum will also honour the exemplary attitude and life's work of the artist, Nazi opponent and exile Erwin Bowien. Due to political developments, the artist left Germany in 1933 to go into exile in Holland. The Reich Chamber of Culture issued an exhibition ban and had his paintings confiscated by the Gestapo. After the occupation of the Netherlands by the Wehrmacht, he had to go into exile and survived the war in hiding in the Allgäu region of southern Germany. After 1945, he founded the Artists' Colony and, as a European before his time, campaigned for international friendship. This project is a great challenge for the Bettina Heinen-Ayech Foundation for the coming years and a significant task that requires the support and assistance of many friends and supporters as well as sponsors.
The Bettina Heinen-Ayech Foundation has launched the project Museum Artists' Colony "Black House" Solingen. It sees itself as a pioneer in the creation of a presentation and meeting place for all the intentions of the work of the Artists' Colony of the time that are to be preserved. In addition to the works of the Artists' Colonists, the planned museum will also present literary friends, sculptors and artists who were close to the Artists' Colony. In addition, special exhibitions by other artists can expand the range of exhibits. Due to favourable circumstances, the historic property in which the artists' colony maintained its studios is available for this museum project in the Solingen district of Höhscheid. The ensemble consists of two half-timbered houses, the so-called "Black" and "Red" House, and could be extended with a connecting wing to include modern museum rooms and merge into a museum complex. Initial concepts and plans for the planned museum have already been drawn up by Dipl.-Ing. Nicole Molinari and architect Bernd Gringmann, Solingen.
After the inclusion of the Solingen Artists' Colony "Black House" as a partner in the "European Federation of Artists´ Colonies - euroart", another great and important recognition of European dimension has now taken place. The Artists' Colony "Black House" Solingen has been included in the cultural route of the Council of Europe Impressionisms Routes©. The Impressionisms Routes© project aims to establish and promote a link in Europe between the sites that inspired the European Impressionists and "plein air" painters from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, the places where they lived, the places where they founded Artists' Colonies and the sites that today exhibit their works in their museums or cultural institutions. The European project euroart, the association of over 50 Artists' Colonies from 16 European countries, as well as the network structure created by Impressionisms Routes© aim to preserve the European heritage built up over decades in the best possible way and to promote this heritage for all kinds of encounters through art and culture, with the aim of working towards a "lasting peace" in Europe.
The inclusion and recognition in the Council of Europe's Cultural
Route - Impressionisms Routes© is another step for the appreciation and achievement of the Artists' Colony "Black House" Solingen. "We are not only proud and feel very honoured that the European
focus is on the work and creations of the Solingen Artist Colonists. Rather, it is also in line with the goals of the Bettina Heinen-Ayech Foundation - Foundation for Art, Culture and
International Dialogue - to focus not only on the works and creations of the protagonists of the Artists' Colony but also on the idea of international understanding," says Dr Haroun Ayech,
Chairman of the Foundation.
Impressionisms Routes© was certified as a "Council of Europe Cultural Route" in 2018 and included by the Council of Europe in the spectrum of European Cultural Routes launched. The Routes are the local networks that implement the Council of Europe's core values: Human Rights, Cultural Democracy, Cultural Diversity and Identity, Exchange and Mutual Enrichment across Borders. They act as channels for intercultural dialogue and promote a better knowledge and understanding of European history. For the Artists' Colony "Black House" Solingen, this is another great and significant recognition of European dimension. This recognition also acknowledges the extraordinary attitude of the founder of the Artists' Colony - Erwin Bowien (1899-1972) - who, as an exile of the first hour, left Germany as early as 1933 and, although he was banned from exhibiting by the Reich Chamber of Culture and had to endure the confiscation of his paintings by the Gestapo, dared to make a hopeful new start in Solingen as early as 1945.