The “Black House” in Solingen owes its origins not to enthusiasm for a special landscape or as a retreat into a special, even untouched nature, but rather to the commitment and attraction of intellectuals and free spirits. First and foremost, 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-minded lyricist Hanns Heinen (1895-1961), Erna Heinen-Steinhoff developed as a muse into an important patron of the arts.
Over the years, the literary protagonists of the “Black House” were joined 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 individual art work.
They created portraits, landscapes, city views and pictorially captured scenes of everyday life. They found their corresponding motifs in the green vegetation of the Bergisches Land, and later on extended journeys together, which regularly took the Artist Colonists to Sylt, Scandinavia, Switzerland or Paris. The three actors painted on location, in front of nature “plein air”, as it was also necessary to directly capture the respective light together with the atmosphere with oil paints, pastels and watercolours.