Lieben: An Artist Colony

Einar Neilson contemplating. ca 1940's

Einar Neilson contemplating. ca 1940’s

Einar Neilson was born in Stavanger, Norway but moved to Manitoba as a child. There he grew up to work as a trader at the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. After many years at the Grain Exchange, Einar chose to leave behind his business life and move westward to seek a quieter life of solitude. He found the peace and quiet he was looking for on Bowen Island, and in 1941 he purchased a 10 acre property in Eaglecliff, and almost immediately began building his beautiful home. Working with his hands, and his unique sense of craftsmanship, Einar constructed a home built of wooden beams, large glass windows looking over Howe Sound, and a huge fireplace.

A view of the water taken from the inside of Lieben. ca 1940's

A view of the water taken from the inside of Lieben. ca 1940’s

Along with this, Einar created furniture from driftwood, moulded brass holders for oil lamps, displayed china and pottery on open shelves and hung exquisite tapestries along his wooden walls.

An interior shot of one of the ornate bedroom sets of Lieben. ca 1940's

An interior shot of one of the ornate bedroom sets of Lieben. ca 1940’s

He called his home Lieben, and his hope was to create a haven that would welcome poets, writers, and artists. Einar and his wife Muriel only wanted to be the care takers, which made it possible for authors, artists and intellectuals to come write, paint and discuss in relaxation and peace. It was a place where one heard light music, brilliant discussions on theatre, music, literature, politics, philosophy, religion, and enjoyed food and drink. Lieben over the years became popular and hosted such personalities as Earle Birney, Malcome Lowry, Lister Sinclair, Watson and Mary Thomson, Alice Munro, Dorothy Livesay and many many more. Einar and Muriel, true to their wishes were almost invisible to their guests; one particular moment highlights this sentiment. Lister Sinclair ¬†once asked “who is that man who comes in time to time?” Earle Birney replied “thats your host”.

One of the many sculptures created at Lieben. ca 1940's

One of the many sculptures created at Lieben. ca 1940’s

As the years went on it was obvious that the Neilsons needed more money in order to maintain and expand Lieben, money which they did not have. Muriel noted “as time passed many friends moved on—and we were getting old”. Thus, the Neilsons boarded up the old house and built on up higher on the cliff. The newer house was safer from vandals and nicer to old legs to get up and down easily. To this day many still reminisce about the magic of Lieben and even yearn for its return for writers and intellectuals who can once again share their ideas.