Alexander the Great (F. & S. II.292) was produced in 1982 as part of a series of colourful prints commissioned by Alexander Iolas to correspond with the blockbuster exhibition of ancient art and artefacts The Search for Alexander at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. The print shows a Hellenistic bronze bust of Alexander the Great set against a bright red backdrop and contoured with Warhol’s yellow, graphic, bold outlines.
Alexander the Great has been recognised as one of the greatest military celebrities for centuries, and Warhol’s image makes homage to the figures’ lasting fame. Unlike many of Warhol’s other prints, the artist has left the Hellenistic quality of the portrait largely untouched, rendering the image to look three dimensional and emphasising the bronze material of the original bust. Steeped in art history, this portrait engages with themes of antiquity by keeping the original bronze material in mind, whilst working to transport it into the present with his use of vivid colour and graphic line.
Many images of Alexander the Great would have been widely available in American popular culture at the time and Warhol latched onto the fact that the public would have been very aware of this man’s image. Warhol extends beyond modern day celebrity culture, appropriating iconic images from art history to illustrate his fascination with the concept of fame.