Born in the Saratov region in the southwest of Russia, Shapaev studied at the Ivanovo Art College from 1944 to 1948. In 1949, he entered the prestigious Surikov Institute in Moscow where he would study until 1955. He began exhibiting by 1953 and his important shows included "Soviet Russia," Moscow 1960. His paintings are known for displaying the artist’s own love of life and a distinct perceptiveness of human character. The artist says it is his quest to make the figures “speak” to the viewer and reveal their best attributes.