Erwin Bowien as a writer

The importance of Erwin Bowien as a writer and lyricist has become obscure thanks to the focus on his painterly work. This second, no less demanding creative output with novellas, poems, and novels was considerable, although, to date, little of it, with a few notable exceptions, has been published. During each of his creative periods, in Munich, Dresden, Berlin, and Hechingen until about 1925, at Solingen until 1931, in Dutch "emigration" until 1942, and during his later phases of life in southern Germany and Switzerland until 1972, Bowien also recorded many reflections on the meaning of his life on paper.

The artist's autobiography "“Das schöne Spiel zwischen Geist und Welt - Mein Malerleben" ("The beautiful game between spirit and world: my life as a painter") was written feverishly during the last year of his life in the spring and summer 1972. It was published in 1995. Another key work by Erwin Bowien appeared in France in 2000: "Heures Perdues du Matin: Journal d'un Artiste Peintre, Alpes Bavaroises, 9.IX.1944-10.V.1945." Not unlike Sartre in his journals, this work, written in French and published by important Parisian publisher L'Harmattan, tells the experience of being in internal exile. Bowien describes his life in a remote corner of the Allgäu from 9 November 1944 until the end of the Second World War. Bowien's 206-page book was supplemented with commentary by Bernard Zimmermann of Paris.

Erwin Bowien's manuscripts

Available manuscripts

  • The Dilettante School; Narratives from Holland, 1945/46
  • Amiela. Gifts on the curtain. Words from a clever woman, collected by E. J. Bowien, 1946
  • Worn clothes, novel, 1946/47
  • The blue silk curtains, diary from Norway, 1958

Lost manuscripts

  • Borrowed life, 1940s
  • The exciting silence, 1940s
  • Nuor Tanaste. Arctic Circle diary, 1959

Published works

  • Bowien, Erwin: „Das schöne Spiel zwischen Geist und Welt - Mein Malerleben“ -  Autobiographie mit 16 farbigen und 26 schwarzweißen Abbildungen, herausgegeben vom Freundeskreis Erwin Bowien und Bettina Heinen-Ayech unter besonderer Mitwirkung von Ulrike Friedrichs, ISBN 3-88234-101-7, U-Form Verlag, Solingen, 1995
  • Bowien, Erwin: „Heures perdues du Matin“ - Journal d´un Artiste Peintre, Alpes Bavaroises, 9.IX.1944 – 10.V.1945. Adaptation, notice et notes par Bernard Zimmermann, Verlag L´Harmattan, Paris, 2000, ISBN 2-7475-0040-3


Gabriele Richard and her husband, Prof. Dr. Karl-Eduard Richard, translated Erwin Bowien's French work "Heures perdues du Matin" into German. The manuscript “Lost Morning Hours” was created.


Bowien left behind almost 100 journals. These include spontaneously written texts and travel sketches written in jam-packed pages. Bowien's descriptions are characterised by the often stunning mix of descriptions of often unfortunate living conditions and witty reflections on the world, people, and especially his painting. From a literary point of view, these writings embody total disorder, which, however, adds up to its own universe upon closer study. Very little of these have received scholarly attention.

Previously transcribed under the title: "Lass die Füße frei" ("Set Your Feet Loose". Descriptions of Erwin Bowien's trip to Switzerland in 1963. This diary was transcribed by Gisela Witwer of Würzburg in 1988-89.


Bowien lectured on art history throughout his life. Most of his talks were at the local college in Solingen, but also in Kleve, on Sylt, and at the German Club in Copenhagen.


Erwin Bowien wrote thousands of letters. He frequently added illustrations which were often works of art in their own right. His letters were always in a diary-style, so these works are mostly of historical interest.

Dr. Haroun Ayech