"Lloyd Rees's 1930s pencil drawings of Sydney Harbour have long been admired, very often to the exclusion of drawings from other periods of his work. Closely observed, fastidiously realised, intensely felt, they are singular drawings - there is nothing else quite like them in Australian art." (H Kolenberg, Lloyd Rees Drawings, Sydney, 1995, p. 7)
In 1931 with his wife Marjory Pollard, Rees moved to McMahons Point, close to his good friends and fellow artists Roland Wakelin and Percy Lindsay. This move, after some years of unhappiness, ignited Rees' love of drawing. His observations of SydneyHarbour were unparalleled and when exhibited in 1931 a the Society of Artists and later at Macquarie Galleries, they were met with great enthusiasm.
Looking towards Balmain is a beautiful example of this period. Rees' love of the harbour and his intimate knowledge of the foreshores is completely apparent. This drawing gives the viewer a 'snapshot' of this working class inner-city Sydney suburb, through his obsessive attention to detail. The drawings were invariably started plein air, usually with a 2b or 3b pencil and an eraser to create the razor sharp lines. From there he would rework the drawings in his studio, often allowing for some imaginary formations. Some drawings took three to four days to complete.
"Rees's pencil drawings of Sydney usher in a period of exploration and excitement. They have the excitment found in early topographical views; they have the wonder at the beauty of Sydney's natural setting that is in the work of Conrad Martens; they have the excitement of landscape discovery in Renaissance painting. The urgency in developing pencil into an expressive medium capable of conveying this, gives these drawings a unique force." (R Free, Lloyd Rees, Sydney, 1972, p. 39)