From 1945 to 1946 she trained in Otokar Velimski's studio, later moving on to study at the Academy of Art and Industry in Prague (supervised by Josef Wagner). From 1948 to 1950 she studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, working in Paul Niclausse's studio as a student. She came back to Poland in 1951 and began to participate in artistic life, taking part in competitions to create public monuments to Chopin (with Oskar Hansen), to Polish-Soviet Friendship, to the Warsaw Heroes, the victims of Auschwitz and Juliusz Słowacki. In 1963 she moved to France for good. In Paris she became involved with the Nouveau Réalisme movement (along with Arman, César and Niki de Saint-Phalle), led by the critic Pierre Restany. However, Szapocznikow retained her originality, remaining a sensitive artist focused mostly on issues of intimacy.
My artistic gesture is aimed at the human body, this 'entirely erogenous area' with its undefined and ephemeral feelings, celebrating its impermanence in the recesses of our body and in the traces of the steps we take on this earth. Through casts of the human body, I attempt to preserve in translucent polystyrene the ephemeral moments of life, its paradoxes and its absurdity. (...) I am convinced that among all manifestations of impermanence, the human body is the most fragile. It is the sole source of all joy, all pain and all truth, and this thanks to its ontological poverty, which is as inevitable as it is (at the conscious level) absolutely unacceptable.