Douglas Volk was the son of Leonard Wells Volk, a well-known American sculptor. When he was fourteen, his parents took him to Rome and enrolled him in art courses. From Italy he traveled to Paris and trained with the academic artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, who teasingly called Volk and his friend George de Forest Brush “twins” because they looked similar and spent a good deal of time together. In 1886, Volk founded the Minneapolis School of Fine Art, which he directed until 1893. He returned to New York, where he sustained his commitment to education, lecturing on the moral value of art at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. He was also an instructor at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design (Franklin, American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, vol. II, 1998).