Karl Maughan was born in Wellington in 1964 and grew up in the Manawatu, first living on a farm near Cloyton, then in Palmerston North, and finally in 1977 in Ashhurst. From Freyberg High School, Maughan went to Elam School of Fine Arts in 1983, graduating in 1986. In 1987 he decided to complete his master’s degree and had his first solo show at the Brooker Gallery, Wellington.
Maughan moved in 1994 to London, where he married novelist Emily Perkins and where their three children were born. Maughan had several studios around the East End and his London successes included being a finalist in the 1997 John Moores biennial paintings prize at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, purchases by the Saatchi Collection and the Arts Council of England and, in 1999, the production of a six-panel work for display at a Habitat store, A Clear Day, which was later purchased by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Maughan returned to New Zealand in 2005 and currently lives and works in Wellington.