Rees described his first impressions of Sydney as he arrived by ship through the Heads in 1916.
'When ... the ship cleared the great cliffs of North Head and the harbour spread itself before me with all its bays and vistas, its sculptured foreshores and russet green vegetation, and later its buildings caught in the golden light with rows and rows of them defining the contours of the hills, and the whole bathed in opalescence of colour never previously seen - is it any wonder that Sydney then and there entered my heart never to leave it again ... In that first long look Sydney cast her spell and its has remained with me ever since ...'
- Lloyd Rees 1969
Rees' drawings of the 1930s focused almost exclusively on the harbour as subject, and he had to negotiate many difficulties in his attempts to achieve comparable revelations in his paintings. He won the 1950 Wynne Prize for landscape painting with The harbour from McMahon's Point. Upon receiving it he said, 'I noticed particularly that my pictures were getting lower and lower in tone … as pictures they wouldn't come forward ...I suddenly thought - that was it, you must use more white. So I ... decided on titanium. This brought about a terrific change at once.'