Tjalf Sparnaay was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands in 1954. Initially he chose the profession of sports teacher, but then he decided to follow his heart and start a career as a painter. He enrolled in the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, but the academy was not all that he had hoped for. He left and as an autodidact taught himself how to paint hyperrealistic paintings.
At first he produced realistic postcards for a living, but then he began to apply himself more and more to autonomous painting. During a visit to New York, where he came face to face with the work of the representatives of pop art and the corresponding American hyperrealism, he confirmed his choice. The painting of large still lifes of ordinary, everyday dishes such as fried eggs and salads, fast-food meals and the leftovers of trivial consumer goods, such as crushed Coke cans, has become his trademark.
In a way, he has different sources of inspiration. On the one hand he admires other modern painters of hyperrealism, and on the other hand he is inspired by the 17-century Dutch masters. He goes to a lot of museums – the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum being his favourite – and is filled with enthusiasm especially for Vermeer’s refined genre scenes, Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro and Kalf’s lavish still lifes. He examines the qualities of their painting techniques such as the meticulous representation of reality, with its prominent characteristics of lighting and rendering of textures and materials.
In addition, photography is an important medium for the painter. Before he picks up the brush and oils, he makes several photographs of his carefully composed subject. He photoshops them until he has found the right composition, which then serves as an example for his canvas.
Sparnaay paints his still lifes in such large sizes that the viewer is pulled into the painting to regard the work in its smallest details. Consequently, the painter identifies his own work as Megarealism, a term that can be considered a free variation on the official term for his style: Hyperrealism.