Conder was trained in Sydney and Melbourne, and in 1890 moved to Paris. In Australia he was already known as an Impressionist, for his decorative and delicately coloured landscapes. These were inspired in part by Whistler, whose work was known in Australia from prints. 'The Plum Tree' was one of his first paintings in France. The way he concentrates on the flowers, as if illustrating Spring, reflects his interest in symbolism. The painting is dedicated to Arthur Studd, an English painter also working in Paris, who was an associate both of Whistler and Gauguin.