A ground-breaking British abstract painter, John Plumb studied at Luton School of Art, 1942–1945, the Byam Shaw School, 1948–1950, and the Central School, 1952–1955, under Anthony Gross, Victor Pasmore, William Turnbull and Keith Vaughan. It was while he was studying that he met and married Joan Lawrence.
Success came quickly for Plumb. He was represented in the AIA abstract exhibitions of 1953 and 1957, in the Situation exhibitions 1960 and 1961 –
alongside Bridget Riley, William Turnbull, Robyn Denny and others – and in a group exhibition at Leverkusen, 1961. Group exhibitions since this date include British Painting in 1974 at Hayward Gallery, London and Art & the 60s: This Was Tomorrow at Tate Britain, 2004. His first one-man exhibition was at Gallery One in 1957. He subsequently showed at Marlborough and Axiom Galleries, followed by solo exhibitions throughout the UK, including Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol.
Plumb taught at Luton School of Art, 1955–1961, Maidstone College of Art, 1961–1966, and Bennington College, Vermont, 1968–1969. He was Senior Lecturer in Painting at the Central School of Art and Design, London from 1969 to 1982. After retiring from teaching, Plumb relocated to Yarnscombe, north Devon.