Charles Volkmar was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1841. His grandfather was an engraver and his father was a Dresden-educated portrait painter, etcher and restorer. Volkmar received his initial art training at the Maryland Institute and by his late teens, he was an accomplished etcher.
In 1861, accused of being a Confederate sympathizer, Volkmar made a quick departure for Europe. He settled in Paris and studied under the bronze sculptor Antoine-Louis Bayre and at the Jarden des Plantes and in the government schools. Volkmar stayed in France for fifteen years, returning frequently to the United States. In 1864 he exhibited a landscape at the National Academy of Design in New York When he returned to Europe he took up studies with Barbizon landscapist Henri Harpignies.
In 1875, Volkmar made his fist appearance at the Salon in Paris and thereafter began exhibiting his paintings, pottery and etchings on a regular basis. In 1876, Volkmar visited the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition where he exhibited one of his landscapes and became fascinated by the “slip” pottery technique. Upon his return to Europe, Volkmar relocated to Montigney-sur-Loring, near Fontinbleau, where he observed the local potters, employing the slip method first-hand. In 1879, When Volkmar returned to the United States, he set up kilns at Greenpoint, Long Island in 1879, in Tremont, New York in 1882 in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1888 and in Metuchen, New Jersey in 1902. In 1903 his son joined him in a partnership that lasted until 1911 when Volkmar’s ill health forced him to dissolve the business. Volkmar died three years later in 1914.
For his etchings, watercolors, easel paintings and pottery, Volkmar preferred decorative motifs, such as landscapes with water and some living creature, often a goose or a duck.