From 1895 he studied painting and drawing at the Berlin Art Academy with Julius Ehrentraut and Paul Prozess , then from 1899 privately with Eugen Bracht . Kolbe came to Dresden in 1903 as Bracht's master student. Back in Berlin in 1906, Kolbe became a member of the Berlin Artists' Association . In 1913 he received a scholarship from the Julius Helfft Foundation for landscape painters.
In 1914 he created five large frescoes in the Schöneberg town hall.
In 1943 Kolbe's Berlin apartment with many of his works was destroyed in an air raid.