Born in Lyons, the son of an ornamental craftsman, Vollon was initially apprenticed to an engraver in metal. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lyons from 1850 to 1853 under the engraver Vibert, and worked as a decorator of enamelled pans and stoves. In 1859 he moved to Paris, where he met Théodule Ribot, and began to paint still lifes. He also associated with Daubigny and Daumier. He exhibited at the Salon from 1864. Although he is best known for his still lifes, influenced by Dutch 17th-century painting, he also painted landscapes.