Viktor Popkov (Виктор Попков)

Artist Biography

Viktor Popkov, Sleeping (Mother), 1951, 25×35, oil /board
Viktor Popkov, Sleeping boy (son), 1951, 25×35, oil/board

Viktor Efimovich Popkov (1932–1974) 

Painter, graphic artist, portraitist, landscape and genre painter. In 1948–1952 he studied at MVHPU and continued his studies at the Surikov Moscow State Institute of Fine Art where his teacher was E.A.Kibrik. Winner of The State Prize of the USSR (in 1975 – posthumously). 

Victor Popkov started his artistic career during the “Thaw”. In 1950–1960 the artist often traveled around the country. He visited Irkutsk, Bratsk and other Siberian cities, the sites of intensive construction work. These visits inspired the artist to do a number of paintings. One of those is a famous work in “Severe Style”. It is titled Construction of the Bratsk Hydropower Station (1961). 

In the mid-1960s Popkov totally changed his style. Popkov rediscovered individuality in the wake of the official art of the Stalin era, which had been an expression of state-sponsored ideology. The artist’s personality is very much in evidence in his paintings: he freely expressed his opinion of human beings and the world at large. His work pinpointed the theme of a lost generation whose lives had been messed up by the Great Patriotic War (the Mezensk Widows cycle, 1966–1968). The self-portrait as a composite image of his contemporaries occupied a special place in the artist’s work (Father’s Overcoat 1970–1972). 

Popkov’s paintings stimulated the esthetic formation of young artists in the 1970s, including Tatiana Nazarenko. Popkov died in an accident in 1974. A posthumous exhibition of his works at the Tretyakov Gallery was a significant event in the country’s cultural life.