Ralph Goings - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Painted in 1972, Ralph Goings’ Hot Fudge Sundae is a celebration of the American diner painted in the artist’s technical prowess. A key player in the photorealist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Goings consistently turned to settings and objects found in everyday life for his source imagery – from condiments like ketchup bottles and Sweet’N Low packets, to pick-up trucks in parking lots, each of the artist’s subjects are rendered with such precision that they instantly evoke a sense of nostalgia for the American experience. Hot Fudge Sundae is no exception; through the doorway of a diner marked with a sticker advertising the eponymous dessert, Goings depicts the parking lot outside of a Safeway grocery store. Inside the comfort of the diner stands a woman with flared pants at the counter. Whether she is a regular customer or a someone passing through on a long road trip, she is, to the viewer, simultaneously a stranger and someone intensely familiar.


    Photograph to the Canvas

    "What I'm about is making paintings, and my camera is one of the tools I use. It's the artist's job to take the painting beyond the photograph." —Ralph Goings

    Each of Goings’ perfectly executed paintings would begin with a photograph taken by the artist himself. Reviewing each of the photos taken of a particular subject from a series of slides, Goings would choose the most compelling composition and then project the image onto a canvas to roughly sketch the outlines with pencil. After the scene was mapped out, Goings would begin his underpainting. At a certain point, the photograph would be cast aside and the rest of the painting would be done by eye. The diner paintings, like the present work, would often take the artist over a month.

    For Goings, the source image was always where the work began. It was through the camera that the nuances of light, space and form would be captured. He said, “I've always been fascinated by the way photographs capture the effects of light on space and form—the camera doesn't seem to care about ‘things,’ but what light does to them. The camera can record effects that the naked eye can't perceive.” i Goings’ fascination with light and its effects is particularly evident in Hot Fudge Sundae. Here, the primary interior setting of the diner is in shadow, while the world outside its door is bathed in sunlight, calling into question the real subject of the painting. In fact, the advertisement that gives the work its title is seen in reverse to the viewer, placing us simultaneously inside and outside of the comfort of the diner.


    The American Diner in Art

    "...when I look at...the diners, you are painting America. You are painting life... And the diners, of course, are ageless". —Ralph Goings

    The diner is the quintessential symbol of American life, eternalized in William Eggleston’s color photographs or depicted in television shows like Twin Peaks’ Double R Diner. It is through Goings’ painterly depiction that our relationship as viewers—or perhaps as diner-goers—to the space is put into question, just as it is in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks from 1942. In the depiction of Hopper’s mid-century diner, we are facing the exterior of what appears to be an isolating environment, devoid of conversation. In Hot Fudge Sundae we are instead placed inside of Goings’ 1970s diner, looking out at what lies ahead. Perhaps what we are reminded of in Goings’ interpretation is the “opportunity to enjoy a meal free from judgment, and the delightful possibility of unexpected conversation. Cold and solitary from one vantage, warm and convivial from another—it is this duality, bolstered by the American democratic ideal, that explains diners’ evergreen intrigue.” ii

  • i Ralph Goings, quoted in “Really Real Photorealism”, The Picture Show: Photo Stories from NPR, October 15, 2009, online
    ii Ryan P. Smith, “The Mystique of the American Diner, From Jack Kerouac to “Twin Peaks””, Smithsonian Magazine, August 31, 2017, online

    • Provenance

      O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1973)
      Bukowskis, Stockholm, May 14, 2014, lot 415
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Ian Bennett, A History of American Painting, London, 1973, no. 220, p. 215 (illustrated)
      Daphne Lucas, A Gallery of Great Paintings, London, 1975, no. 83, pp. 104-105 (illustrated)
      Linda Chase, Ralph Goings, New York, 1988, no. 34, p. 40 (illustrated; titled as Hot Fudge Sundae Interior)


Hot Fudge Sundae

signed and titled "Ralph Goings HOT FUDGE SUNDAE" on the reverse; further signed, titled and dated "RALPH GOINGS 1972 HOT FUDGE SUNDAE" on the stretcher
oil on canvas
39 7/8 x 56 1/8 in. (101.5 x 142.5 cm)
Painted in 1972.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $403,200

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261


20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York 8 December 2020