Der Mond – Die Braunschaft was painted the year that Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the Moon. While “Der Mond” is “the moon” in German, “Braunschaft” is a word Indiana made up. “Braun” means brown in German, and “schaft” is a suffix that can be added to nouns, adjectives, or verbs to create a noun denoting certain categories of groups, activities, or states of being. In a lecture Indiana gave on May 3, 1984, in conjunction with the Wood Works exhibition at the National Museum of American Art, he noted thinking both of the brown landscape of the moon, and of Wernher von Braun, the leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany, who later led NASA’s development of the Saturn V rocket that took Apollo 11 to the moon. The text “Ah! Sehet sein grinsendes Gesicht,” means “Ah! See his grinning face.” The artist noted that AH were Adolf Hitler’s initials, and that if it hadn’t been for him “we wouldn’t have had Werhner, and if we hadn’t had Wernher we would never have got to the moon.”
Der Mond – Die Braunschaft is the second of Indiana’s paintings honoring space travel. In 1961 he painted Le Premiere Homme, inspired by Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to travel to outer space on April 12, 1961.