The Whiteleys settled permanently in Sydney in 1969 and purchased the three storey Victorian house on the shores of Lavender Bay. This house swept up in its views of Sydney Harbour as well as the wonderful boats, yachts and ferries, the Harbour Bridge, palms and Moreton Bay fig trees that grew nearby which for many years to come all provided the inspiration for a remarkable group of paintings and drawings.
Whiteley revelled in depicting the beauty of Sydney Harbour and the ambience of his surroundings and new home. These boldly conceived, joyous images have become embedded in the Australian psyche as celebrations of the sensuous beauty of this unique harbour.
Whiteley wrote the introduction to his Lavender Bay exhibition of twenty-five paintings and drawings shown at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, in November 1974. This show marked a turning point for him and he describes his new direction "The paintings begin from the premise of recording the glimpse seen at the highest point of affection - points of optical ecstasy where romanticism and optimism overshadow any form of menace or foreboding."
Lavender Bay in the Rain was painted in the mid 1970s at the peak of Whiteley's career when he dominated the largest Annual event in the Sydney art scene winning several Archibald (1976, 1978), Sulman (1976, 1978) and Wynne Prizes (1977, 1978).
Sandra McGrath's description of a comparable work sums up the artist's achievements at the time. Lavender Bay in the Rain a pearly grey, deliciously wet and Turneresque picture, showed that Whiteley had become not only an outstanding painter of mood, but an artist whose ability to observe nature was Streeton-like in its revelatory quality." (S McGrath, Brett Whiteley, Sydney, 1979, p. 174)
Typically, this picture is dominated by a totally flat picture surface without horizon - activated only by the curvilinear form of the Harbour Bridge and the scattered arrangement of boats on the harbour. With its elegant abstracted composition and sumptuous paint application Lavender Bay in the Rain encompasses the sensual mood of peace and tranquillity which pervades the Lavender Bay paintings.