Erwin Bowien's CV

September 03, 1899

  • Born in Mülheim an der Ruhr
  • The father Erich Bowien, civil engineer and later commercial director of the Rhine port in Weil am Rhein, was the brother of the well-known pastor Otto Bowien. He probably originally came from a Huguenot family who had immigrated from France, primarily merchants and craftsmen from Mohrungen in East Prussia. During the First World War as major of the pioneers, he received the highest awards.
  • The mother Anna-Maria, born Neufeldt, came from a Dutch Mennonite family who had immigrated to East Prussia and was the daughter of the well-known manufacturer and city councilor Adolf Heinrich Neufeldt from Elbing in East Prussia.
Erwin Bowien's children's shoe in bronze
Erwin Bowien's children's shoe in bronze

1900 to 1908

  • Childhood in Berlin-Charlottenburg, the first 4 years of school in the Schillergymnasium there
Bowien family in Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1902
Bowien family in Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1902

1909 to 1917

  • Adolescence in French-speaking Switzerland
  • Attended the Collège Latin in Neuchâtel, first regular art education with Professor William Racine at the local school of applied arts
  • Carl Russ-Suchard (1838-1925), owner of the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Suchard, is the artist's first patron. He acquires a number of paintings from him
  • first portrait of his father (with guitar)
Erich Bowien, (father of the artist) and his officers, 1914
Erich Bowien, (father of the artist) and his officers, 1914


  • first exhibition in the gallery “A la Rose d'Or” in Neuchâtel

1917 to 1918

  • Participation in the First World War, Bowien is opposite the French in the Argonne Forest, because of his knowledge of French he serves as an interpreter and translates hostile radio messages
  • Drawings from the front
  • military award
Erwin Bowien with his father Erich Bowien, 1917
Erwin Bowien with his father Erich Bowien, 1917

1918 to 1919

  • Discharge in Hanover
  • Participation in evening drawing courses at the trade school in Hanover

1919 to 1920

  • half a year in Constance on Lake Constance
  • lifelong friendship with the Enzenroß family, princely forest ranger, in the forest seat on Kilenberg / Lake Constance
  • Family and landscape pictures


  • Award of the Iron Cross to Erwin Bowien

1920 to 1921

  • Studied at the State Art Academy in Munich with the later founder of Munich New Impressionism, Professor Robert Engels (decorative wall painting)
Erwin Bowien at the Art Academy in Munich, 1921
Erwin Bowien at the Art Academy in Munich, 1921


  • half a year of study in Dresden, advised by Professor Richard Müller, who declared the young painter "done"
  • Inflation, total breadlessness

City vedute of Danzig, 1923
City vedute of Danzig, 1923


  • Training as a drawing teacher at the State Art School Berlin-Schöneberg with Professor Philipp Franck in Berlin, art history lessons with Professor Oskar Fischel
  • Exam as a works teacher in Düsseldorf
  • First encounter with Hans Thoma in Karlsruhe. Started his painting trips to Kassel, Aachen, Hamburg, Lübeck, Gdansk, Karlsruhe, Freiburg, Basel, Königsberg, Hildesheim
  • Great painting trip to East Prussia on the trail of his ancestors. Stops are Elbing, Mohrungen, Danzig, the Kuhrische Nehrung and Königsberg


  • Trial year as an art teacher at the Realgymnasium in Hechingen / Hohenzollern

1925 to 1932

  • Solingen: Art teacher at the Schwertstrasse grammar school from June 19, 1925 to September 30, 1931, over 100 lectures on art history at the Volkshochschule, presentation of all work processes at the Zwinger J.A. Henckels, large family portrait of director Dr. Gontermann, large family portrait of Hanns Heinen and sons, Wupper landscapes, Solingen cityscapes
  • Art trips to Prague and Vienna (1928), Northern Italy (1929)
  • Friendship with the family of the editor and poet Hanns Heinen from Solingen

1932 to 1942


Photos from the former possession of the artist Erwin Bowien
now in the archive of Dr. Haroun Ayech
  • Bowien goes into self-chosen Dutch exile
  • Building a new existence
  • Life as a freelance artist in North Holland in Egmond aan den Hoef (in the house of the philosopher René Descartes, at the ruins of Egmond Castle)
  • Traveling across the country; Works of important Dutch landscapes: seascapes, dune pictures, especially in pastel; large series of graphite drawings by Dutch farmers and artisans; City sketches
  • In 1937 the municipality of Egmond commissioned the artist Erwin Bowien to portray all children who were born in the municipality of Egmond in the same year as the later Queen Beatrix. In 1937 and 1938 around 20 graphite drawings were made which are still in the possession of the Dutch royal family and which are known under the name "Egmondse Kinderportretten".
  • Purchase of pictures by the Museum of Hoorn. The director of the art cabinet acquired drawings and pastels, which he later bequeathed to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
  • after the outbreak of war life in material need
  • Novel cycle "The School of Dilettantes" and "There is a House in Holland", poems and diaries that will continue for life
  • Artistic training of painter Dirk Oudes from Ouddorp near Alkmaar


Historical photo: Erwin Bowien (1899-1972) in exile in the Netherlands during a visit by his muse Erna Heinen-Steinhoff (1898-1969) in 1934
Historical photo: Erwin Bowien (1899-1972) in exile in the Netherlands during a visit by his muse Erna Heinen-Steinhoff (1898-1969) in 1934
  • Portraits of the Dutch fleet manager, Vice Admiral Brutel de la Rivière, and the friends of the Boeke, Groot, Hemelrijk, Hünder-Decker, and Swart-Boer families
  • Great North Africa trip with the Hünder-Decker family to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, numerous pastels and graphite drawings from this trip


  • At dawn on May 10, 1940, Bowien witnessed the German attack on the Netherlands. He witnessed the bombing of Bergen Airport. In his autobiography he writes: ... the farmers who believed that an accident had happened at the airport ran outside in pajamas and nightgowns. In the air the planes were circling with the devil mark, and I had to tell the unsuspecting that it means war.
  • Erwin Bowien was arrested during the attack by the Wehrmacht in the Netherlands in May 1940.
  • Erwin Bowien succeeds, with the help of his friend Hanns Heinen, in the release of a Dutch hostage from Egmond a.d. who was abducted by the German occupiers. To obtain Hoef.


  • Bowien leaves the Netherlands to avoid being drafted into the Wehrmacht. From then on, he struggled through Germany without any valid military papers until 1945.
  • In November 1942 Bowien exhibited in the “Kunstzaal Plaats” in The Hague. Title of the exhibition "Works by E. J. Bowien"

1942 to 1943

  • Stayed for half a year in Solingen with the Heinen family; there are a number of cityscapes in watercolor; the most beautiful representations of Solingen before the destruction
  • Escape through Germany. Since Bowien had no valid military papers, he was not allowed to spend more than 6 weeks in one place, otherwise he would have had to register with the authorities. After half a year with the Heinen family in Solingen, he left the city so as not to endanger them and embarked on a journey into the unknown. This is followed by stations on the manor house Ahse near Soest, in Hannoversch Münden, in Kreuzthal-Eisenbach near Isny, in Augsburg, in Munich, in Garmisch Partenkirchen, in Mittenwald, in Weil am Rhein, in Alsace etc .... In 1943 he became careless and stayed in Augsburg for half a year. This extended stay is almost his undoing. He is displayed and can barely save himself. Many of his works are confiscated by the Gestapo.

Catalog of works N ° 170 - Augsburg, 1943
Catalog of works N ° 170 - Augsburg, 1943


  • After six months in Augsburg, his pictures were confiscated by the Gestapo on the orders of the Reich Chamber of Culture. These are later destroyed by the effects of war.

1943 to 1945

  • Escape to Allgäu to Kreuzthal-Eisenbach near Isny; silent landscape painting; literary work "Les heures perdues du matin" u.a.


  • Bowien no longer ventures out of the Kreuzthal; Protection by the village policeman Ottmar Meer


  • after the end of the war return to the Heinen family's home in Solingen; Time of hunger; literary work: borrowed life, worn clothes (unpublished); Resumption of lectures, extensive landscape oeuvre: Bergisches Land, Rhineland, portraits, still lifes
  • Foundation of the artists' colony -  "Black House"

Erwin Bowien drawing in the garden of the "Black House", 1946
Erwin Bowien drawing in the garden of the "Black House", 1946


  • Erwin Bowien participates in the founding conference of the Rhenish-Westphalian Writers' Association from June 4-6, 1946 in Lobberich / Ingenhoven Castle (today part of the city of Nettetal)
Erwin Bowien in Lobberich on the occasion of the founding of the Rhenish-Westphalian Writers' Association, 1946
Erwin Bowien in Lobberich on the occasion of the founding of the Rhenish-Westphalian Writers' Association, 1946
  • As an observer, Erwin Bowien draws the war processes in Wuppertal
British military prosecutor in Wuppertal, 1946
British military prosecutor in Wuppertal, 1946


  • through the mediation of the childhood friend Eric Thiébaud from Neuchâtel: trip to Lausanne, where painting material, oil and pastel colors can be bought for the first time in years; since then periodic stays in Switzerland, especially in the Bernese Oberland, at the Bieler and Neuenburger See, at the sources of the Rhine and in Ticino
  • Erich Bowien's father dies


  • Purchase for 500 DM - a very high sum at the time - by the state government in Düsseldorf of a painting for the art collection of North Rhine-Westphalia.

1950 to 1969

  • Erwin Bowien divides his life between Solingen and Weil am Rhein; countless trips through Germany; Main focus: Representation of the Rhine current from the source to the mouth, with special attention to the large Rhenish cathedrals


  • Start of the annual trips to Sylt to the Klappholttal Adult Education Center
  • essential phase in the instruction of his master student Bettina Heinen


  • Painting trip with his student to Ticino
  • Friendship with the Fallet, Lehmann and Roth families in Bern and the Eggenberger family in Au / St. Gallen
Erwin Bowien with the Swiss art patron Eduard M. Fallet - Von Castelberg
Erwin Bowien with the Swiss art patron Eduard M. Fallet - Von Castelberg


  • Painting trip to southern Sweden (invited by Ms. Olson from Helsingborg) accompanied by his student Bettina
Portrait sketch of painting student Bettina Heinen-Ayech during a painting trip with Erwin Bowien
Portrait sketch of painting student Bettina Heinen-Ayech during a painting trip with Erwin Bowien


  • first trip to Norway, invited by Ms. Lillengen, a Swiss woman married in Norway; (Nygard near Gjövik) important stations on Mjösa and in Sandnessjoen on the island of Alsten
  • Friendship with the Ottar Lillengen and Per and Arna Milde families; thereafter almost an annual invitation to Norway, often together with Bettina Heinen; purchase of the hut "Bettina-Bo" on the island of Alsten; the journey to Norway ushers in the late work
  • Start of the picture cycle of Swiss cities
  • Erwin Bowien drew the finals of the World Cup final in Bern in 1954


  • Bowien met his other student Amud Uwe Millies


  • Start of the annual painting trips to Paris
Bowien with his student Bettina in Paris, 1958
Bowien with his student Bettina in Paris, 1958


  • Death of his brotherly friend Hanns Heinen in Solingen


  • Relocation to Weil am Rhein to the parental home to care for the old mother; significant press recognition on the occasion of the exhibition in Paris; cityscapes of Paris are created
  • Continuation of the Rhine cycle started earlier


  • Interview on Südwestfunk on December 12th


  • Mother Anne-Marie Bowien died on June 17, 1968


  • Death of his close confidante Erna Heinen, née Steinhoff, in Solingen
  • Painting in the border triangle

1969 to 1971

  • Painting trips to Algeria to visit his student Bettina Heinen-Ayech; landscapes are created on the Mediterranean in Skikda and from the region around Guelma in eastern Algeria and in the Sahara near Biskra


  • Marriage to Inken Strohmeyer, née Vogt on July 28th
  • for the Rhine cycle, the cathedral pictures of Breisach, Freiburg, Worms, Speyer, in Alsace from Thann and Strasbourg were created; large flower pictures; Writing poems ("100 pearls") for his young wife Inken


  • largest representation of the Cologne Cathedral; Travel to Finland, Norway and Algeria
  • Start of autobiographical transcript


  • Painting trip to the south of France. Termination of the trip due to health problems; After previous operations in Solingen, inpatient treatment in the cancer clinic of Dr. Issels in Rottach-Egern
  • feverish work on his autobiography "The beautiful game between spirit and world, my painter life" (published 1995)
  • died on December 3rd, 1972 at home in Weil am Rhein; buried in Weil

Dr. Haroun Ayech