Renowned for his atmospheric and subtly nostalgic views of Paris, Maurice Utrillo immortalised a timeless realisation of the city within his paintings over the course of several decades. Depicting a Montmartre still relatively untouched by urbanisation, the present work illustrates three famous windmills which would have dominated the skyline - the Blute-Fin, the Debray and the Radet – covered by a delicate dusting of snow. Born in Montmartre, the area exerted a strong emotional pull on Utrillo, and he painted its streets, windmills and cafés in painstaking detail throughout his life. Alfred Werner comments on the artist’s remarkable ability to distil the hidden essence of these familiar surroundings: ‘Utrillo’s works make it perfectly clear to a visitor to the hill of Montmartre… that it is an artist’s task to reveal to us an aspect of his subject matter that escapes us in ordinary experience. Matter-of-fact and unromantic as Utrillo may have seemed to be while labouring at a piece of canvas or cardboard, he was actually a poet who achieved an emotional equilibrium, an inward harmony, that is only rarely attained…. The painter-poet, singling out a motif, leads us out of confusion to the highest state of mind – clarity’ (Alfred Werner, Utrillo
, London, 1981, p. 40).
The present work was formerly in the collection of Alfred Hitchcock, the film-director renowned for his immensely successful psychological thrillers such as The Birds and Psycho. Hitchcock and his wife amassed an important collection of Twentieth Century art at their Bel Air home, which included a group of works by School of Paris artists as well as other works by Utrillo, which were considered to be amongst the most valuable works in his entire collection.