In this work an abstract patchwork of panels of colour is broken by three small vignettes of the earth viewed from the moon, a black and white image of the Kennedy brothers and The kiss of Judas, a detail from Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua.
This picture has often been interpreted as a metaphor for tensions between the United States and the USSR, centered on the race to place a man on the moon which was finally achieved on 20th July 1969, shortly after the completion of this work. Tension is unmistakable in this work, emphasized by the aggressive symbol of the downward pointed scissors in the upper left corner and the unbalanced scales in the upper right corner.
Popkov may have intended this work to function as a metaphor for the desire of human beings to compete with each other and to betray each other in the pursuit of silver, a moon, or a sense of domination which only leads to human misery. Popkov seems keen to depict the fallability of human beings.
Oil on canvas
150 x 185 cm
Popkov was one of the leading artists of the Severe Style. In 1948–1952 he studied at MVHPU and continued his studies at the Surikov Moscow State Institute of Fine Art. In 1975 he was posthumously awarded The State Prize of the USSR. Popkov started his artistic career during the "Thaw". In 1950–1960 the artist travelled extensively, visiting Irkutsk, Bratsk and other Siberian cities which were the sites of intensive construction work. This led to the painting of one of his masterpieces The Bratsk Hydropower Station (1961 Tretyakov Gallery). In the mid-1960s Popkov totally changed his style. His marriage to Klara was under strain and he had attempted suicide. Popkov's personality is very much in evidence in his paintings and 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 traumatised by the Great Patriotic War (The Mezen Widows Cycle, 1966–1968). The self-portrait occupies a special place in the artist's work (Father's Overcoat 1970–1972). Popkov died in an accident in 1974.