Frederick Thomas Sargood (1834–1903) was born in London, the son of Frederick James Sargood and Emma Rippon. He arrived in Melbourne in 1850 with his family and worked for a time in his father's wholesale softgoods firm, Sargood, King & Co. After a short period on the Mount Alexander goldfields, Sargood took control of the firm's business in central Victoria. A period of expansion into other Australian colonies and New Zealand followed, so that by 1868 Sargood was wealthy enough to commission the prominent architect Joseph Reed to design the mansion Rippon Lea for his large estate at Elsternwick. Today the property is owned by the National Trust.
Sargood followed in his father's footsteps, seeking election to the Legislative Council in 1874. After the death of his first wife in 1880 he resigned, taking his family of nine children to England, where he eventually remarried. He subsequently returned to Melbourne in 1882. Re-elected to the Legislative Council, Sargood held the seat of South Yarra from 1882 until 1901. He served as Minister for Defence from 1883 in the government of James Service, overseeing the transfer of the volunteer brigades to paid militia forces, increasing spending on the Victorian Navy, and fortifying sites including the expansion of the fort at Queenscliff at the time of the Russian war scare in 1885.
Despite the fact that Sargood was not a supporter of Federation and did not take part in the 1897 convention, he was elected a member of the Senate in the first parliament of 1901. A genial host and generous benefactor of numerous charitable causes, Sargood's contribution to the cultural life of the state was significant. This portrait was one of two commissioned by subscribers for presentation to the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria.