At the beginning of the 1920s, the young Solingen "salon lady" - Erna Heinen-Steinhoff (1898-1969) - founded a cultural and literary salon together with her husband, the poet and journalist Hanns Heinen (1895-1961). Among other personalities, the Nobel Prize winners Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) from India and Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) from Norway were the most famous visitors. At the end of the 1920s, the Heinen couple met the painter Erwin Bowien (1899-1972), who remained a close friend of the family. When Bowien left Germany in the 1930s and went into exile in Holland, the Heinen family visited him there frequently. During the Second World War, the Netherlands was overrun by the Wehrmacht. Erwin Bowien went underground and, after an adventurous flight across Germany, ended up in the small town of Kreuzthal-Eisenbach between Kempten and Isny in the Allgäu. There he met the Heinen family again and discovered the artistic talent of the young Bettina Heinen-Ayech (1937-2020), the daughter of the house. When the Heinen family moved back to Solingen in 1945, Bowien followed them and founded an Artists' Colony in the house, where he systematically developed the young Bettina into an artist. In the mid-fifties, the Hamburg painter Amud Uwe Millies (1932-2008) joined them. Hanns Heinen, the poet and lyricist, together with his wife Erna Heinen-Steinhoff, formed the literary counterweight to the painters.
The founder of the Artists' Colony, Erwin Bowien, was a European before his time and dreamed of a united and peaceful Europe since the end of the First World War. He spoke fluent French and Dutch and actively promoted friendship between nations. His most important student - Bettina Heinen-Ayech - lived alternately between Germany and Algeria from the 1960s onwards and had many students in the Arab world. It was her great concern to bring both sides of the Mediterranean - Orient and Occident - closer together. Amud Uwe Millies travelled to the Far East and established contacts in Asia.
The Foundation will endeavour to preserve and collect for future generations the artistic work and writings of the protagonists of the Artists' Colony (Bettina Heinen-Ayech, Erwin Bowien, Hanns Heinen, Amud Uwe Millies and Erna Heinen-Steinhoff), the artistic heritage of their ancestors as well as the friends and students of the protagonists of the Artists' Colony and - secondarily - the visitors to Erna Heinen-Steinhoff's artistic and literary salon.
The works on paper as well as on canvas and other materials require proper storage as well as continuous restoration measures and appropriate glazing and framing. It is also important to preserve the personal belongings of the members of the Artists' Colony as well as the inventory of the Artists' Colony for future generations in order to document the daily life of the artists in the context of exhibitions and a possible museum presentation.
The Foundation will also work to preserve the places of work and remembrance of the artists in Germany and abroad, in particular also the graves of the protagonists of the Artists' Colony and the artists' houses in Solingen, and to commemorate the Artists' Colony by installing information boards. The Foundation will endeavour to work towards the museum use of buildings connected with the artists' colony and to promote the establishment of its own museum around the Artists' Colony and to support these projects materially and ideally.
In complement to the main objective of the foundation, which is to preserve the artistic work of the artists of the "Black House" Artists' Colony materially for future generations and to keep it accessible to the public and research, the idea of international understanding is also to be at the forefront of the foundation's activities. The Foundation will therefore endeavour to present paintings of classical modernism and plein air painting - the art movement common to the painters of the Artists' Colony - from Germany and abroad, and to do justice to the artistic and humanistic ideals of Bettina Heinen-Ayech and the other protagonists of the Artists' Colony at the "Black House" by means of publications, professional use of social media, lectures as well as exhibitions by students of the painter Bettina Heinen-Ayech but also other personalities of art and culture.
The Foundation will endeavour to research the individual as well as the family history and the history of the ancestors of the protagonists of the Artists' Colony, to have the history of the artists' houses and the places of activity of the artists, scientifically processed, to have the rights of use clarified with regard to the copyrights, to acquire the copyrights, rights of use and rights to the name - as far as possible - for the Foundation or to have them protected, to make the works and writings of the artists available to a broad public through cinematic, virtual and online presentations, to create films and virtual reconstructions of the artists' houses and other places of activity as well as reconstructions from the lives of the artists, the visitors to the salon and the families and ancestors of the artists, and to make them accessible to a large public.