Artur (or Arthur) Joseph Wilhelm Volkmann was born in Leipzig on August 28, 1851. When he was still a boy, Volkmann discovered his love of art and his parents supported him. After graduating from the Leipzig Thomasgymnasium, Artur Volkmann decided to become an artist. From 1868 to 1873 Volkmann studied sculpture under Ernst Julius Hähnel in Dresden. After his military service Artur Volkmann continued his studies under Albert Wolff in Berlin and received a scholarship in Rome.
Before Volkmann went to Italy, he met the aesthetic and patron Konrad Fiedler, in whose texts he found a reflection of his own indefinite criticism of the German academic system. Thanks to Fiedler's mediation, Artur Volkmann then had access to the cycles of the painter and mystic Hans von Marées in Rome, who was working in retreat from the cultural scene. Throughout his life Volkmann was fascinated and influenced by Marées. From 1876 to 1887 Marées and Artur Volkmann cooperated intensively.
During these years Volkmann mainly worked on transferring the pictorial expression, Marées had found for paintings, to sculpture. The artists completely followed the harmonizing ideas of antiquity and the panentheistic worldview. For this reason, Artur Volkmann struggled to learn to work marble by freely carving out the stone based on the ancient reliefs. He made very slow progress and only managed to produce a few busts and small reliefs before 1885. The financial difficulties resulting thereof forced Volkmann to return to Germany for three years.
The most remarkable aspect of Volkmann's work is that he began coloring his marble sculptures as early as 1882. This was, however, not received well in Germany and among his clientèle. In 1885 he returned to Rome and worked closely and intensively with Hans von Marées for two years on the implementation of Marées' idea of creating a comprehensive total artwork, consisting of architecture, painting and sculpture. Shortly before the death of his teacher Marées, Artur Volkmann completed two sculptures, which followed Marées' creative principles of a "life illusioning" sculpture.
These sculptures are considered to be the prototypes of all further sculptures by Artur Volkmann. In 1910, 23 years after Marées had died, Artur Volkmann left Rome. He decided to go to Frankfurt and work at the "Städelsche Kunstinstitut" as a professor, where the 60-year old Volkmann surrounded himself with a circle of students to pass on Marées' views of art and the world. This circle soon fell apart and Volkmann took up painting.
From 1920 to 1923, Volkmann tried to have his drafts mass-produced in cooperation with the "Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik" (WMF) in Geislingen. This cooperation was not without problems and in 1923 Volkmann finally decided to move again and terminated the cooperation with WMF. Supported by his student Karl Fetzer, Volkmann risked another new beginning ignoring all warnings, and moved to the art metropolis Basel, knowing that his old friend and patron Heinrich Wölfflin lived there, who he hoped would support him.
In the Basel years from 1923 to 1926, Volkmann mainly developed paintings in triptychs and produced a last large piece in marble "Leda mit Schwan". Inflation caused Artur Volkmann financial distress and he longed to go back to Italy. In 1926 he traveled to Rome with Fetzer, where he had a serious accident, forcing him to return to Germany for good. He was then nursed by Fetzer's mother in Geislingen. Almost blind and hard of hearing, Volkmann continued to live in Geislingen for a further 15 years, using a typewriter to write his memoirs, describe his paintings and try to explain Marées art concept.
On November 13, 1941 Artur Volkmann died in Geislingen, aged ninety.