Popov studied at the Moscow Secondary School of Art and the village of Voskresenskoe in Bashkiria (1939–45) and under Sergei Gerasimov at the Surikov Institute of Fine Arts in Moscow (1945–51). He was a member of the Union of Artists in 1954. He travelled with Gennady Darin, Fyodor Novotelnov, Vladimir Stozharov and Yury Semenyuk to Kostroma and Yaroslavl Regions in 1961 and with Yefrem Zverkov and Vladimir Stozharov to Arkhangelsk Region in 1963 and the Komi Republic in 1964. He painted portraits of fishermen in Galich in 1965. He was made an honoured Artist of the RSFSR in 1970 and a People's Artist of the RSFSR in 1980. An important later career commission was for the painted murals for the House of Receptions in Moscow which he completed in 1985.
Popov was a close friend of Viktor Popkov and the works of both men display a subtle colourism and the strong influence of the Severe Style.