In 2002 Ruth Spenser Komon generously bequested a number of paintings by William Dobell. Ruth and Rudy Koman were long-time friends as well as art dealers for Dobell. Spenser Komon wanted the works to go to a gallery in the region in which Dobell made his home and studio for several years before his passing.
William Dobell was born in 1899 in Newcastle, NSW and, died in 1970 at Wangi, Lake Macquarie. He is perhaps best known as a portrait painter, winning Australia's pre-eminent prize for portraiture, The Archibald Prize, on three separate occasions: 1943, 1948 and 1959.
Dobell's portraits often evolve through a series of sketches and small preliminary painted studies prepared during sittings with the subject. From these he sought to capture and highlight particular and distinctive aspects of the sitter's character and physical apperarance.
His sitters ranged from the very famous – such as Sir Robert Menzies, Helena Rubenstein, Margaret Olley, Dame Mary Gilmore – to the quietly anonymous such as the billy boy, the cement worker, and the sleeping Greek. There are also quite a number of portraits of the artist himself. The gallery’s self-portrait features the white overpainting so characteristic of Dobell’s very late works.