The present work, Les trois moulins de Montmartre sous la neige, depicts three windmills on the hill of Montmartre and the maison Debray, most likely seen from the rue Lepic. The three windmills that stand on the hill in the present work are the Blute-Fin, the Radet and the Debray (or Poivre), of which the first two still stand today. In the second half of the 19th century the mills became confused with the Moulin de la Galette, the name given to the group of fashionable café-concert buildings around them. The sign 'Bal du Moulin de la Galette' can be read on the side of the Debray building.
As with many of Utrillo's paintings, the composition of the present work appears to have been inspired by a postcard of around 1825 which was in turn based on a contemporary engraving (see J. Fabris, Utrillo, sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, 1982, p. 88). It also belongs to a series of similar views executed from the mid-1920s onwards, although Les trois moulins de Montmartre sous la neige is of unusually large scale. An earlier treatment of the motif (Pétridès, no. 1009) was sold at Christie's in New York on 3 November 2004, lot 56.
The present work was once owned by Alfred Hitchcock. With the financial rewards that his illustrious film career brought him, Hitchcock and his wife Alma built an impressive collection of Modern pictures in the their Bel Air home. Aside from his personal predilection for paintings, art played a significant role in Hitchcock's professional output, with his successful collaborations with leading contemporary artists for set design. Many of the major figures of the Ecole de Paris were represented in the collection, and Utrillo was represented by more than one picture. Indeed, when the Hitchcock paintings were valued for insurance at the end of the 1960s, one of his other Utrillos was prized as the most valuable picture in the collection.