The Art of the Burger or the Burger in Art? Sparnaay's Hyperrealism

Enzo Sisto 2 mei 2024

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The hamburger is one of the most iconic and widespread dishes in the world, and its history is deeply intertwined with the evolution of modern society.



The roots of the hamburger trace back to the city of Hamburg, Germany, where in the 19th century "Hamburg steaks" were made. These were seasoned, cooked ground meat patties served to the many emigrants heading to America. The exact moment when this dish evolved into the hamburger as we know it today is unclear, but it is believed that German immigrants introduced the recipe to the United States.

The hamburger's debut in America is documented to have occurred in the late 1800s. Several American restaurateurs and cooks have claimed to have invented the modern hamburger, which is a ground meat patty served between two slices of bread. Among them, one of the most cited is Louis Lassen, who in 1900 in New Haven, Connecticut, supposedly served a hamburger in this style to his customers for the first time.

With the rise of mass production and the emergence of fast-food chains like White Castle in 1921 and later McDonald's in 1940, the hamburger began to symbolize quick and affordable cuisine. These chains standardized the production of hamburgers, making them widely accessible and extremely popular across the country and later around the globe.

Photo of a burger in the Art of Sparnaay's Hyperrealism

In modern art, the hamburger transcends its role as mere fast food, becoming a powerful symbol in the realms of Pop Art and contemporary visual culture. Icons like Andy Warhol highlighted its place in consumerism, famously eating a Burger King hamburger in his film "66 Scenes from America." Similarly, Claes Oldenburg's oversized soft sculpture, "Giant Hamburger," critiques American fast food culture through its playful yet provocative scale.

The theme "Food is Art, Respect It," showcased at a recent Salone del Mobile 2018 in Milan, underscores the idea that food possesses aesthetic, cultural, and philosophical values akin to traditional fine art subjects.

Photos by Enzo Sisto at Salone del Mobile Milano 2018

This concept—that a burger or any food item can be seen as art—originates from the practice of elevating everyday objects to fine art by presenting them in new and thought-provoking ways. This approach draws from artistic traditions such as still life and hyperrealism, where ordinary items are transformed into subjects worthy of detailed scrutiny and admiration.

Photo of an original painting (Foodscape) by Sparnaay

Tjalf Sparnaay, a Dutch artist renowned for his hyperrealistic work, was born in 1954 in Haarlem, Netherlands. A self-taught painter since 1987, Sparnaay focuses on everyday objects in his oil paintings. His subjects range from a breakfast scene to a flattened Coca-Cola can, a fried egg, a half-eaten sandwich, cheeseburgers with desserts, a bag of fries with mayonnaise, a raw herring adorned with a small flag, and a bouquet of tulips wrapped in cellophane.

His works echo the 17th-century still life tradition but are enlarged to monumental sizes using photorealistic techniques. His largest painting, "FoodScape" from 2014, measures 120 × 300 cm. Sparnaay's artistic method involves magnifying and transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, thus expanding the boundaries of visual perception through intense realism.


Photo of an original painting by Sparnaay

By using hyperrealism—a style marked by meticulous detail, vibrant color, and exaggerated scale—Sparnaay spectacularly transforms the mundane. His art compels viewers to pause and reevaluate their daily interactions with these common items, enhancing reality to foster deeper engagement and appreciation.


Sparnaay's emphasis on universally recognizable items makes his art accessible and relatable, bridging cultural and social divides. His paintings offer a shared experience for viewers of diverse backgrounds, celebrating the simple joys of a meal. Thus, Sparnaay’s works are more than just food representations; they invite us to rediscover the beauty and artistry in everyday life.


Imagine a wondeful journey through a typical Dutch lifestyle. Sparnaay helps us with his paintings:

- Purchasing food: the beginning.


- Preparing a salad or French fries.


- Don't forget to wash your hand ...

- Why not enjoy the majesty of a burger?

- Followed by a delectable dessert or maybe a bonbon?


- Remember to step outside to buy some flowers.

- And perhaps a postcard to send home before leaving Amsterdam.

Here is Tjalf in his studio, painting your next dream...


And if you need inspiration for your new burger, maybe a trip to the Big Apple could spark your creativity.


If you would like to learn more about Tjalf Sparnaay, consider writing to him at his studio or visiting his exhibition at the Jan Museum in Amstelveen, Netherlands.

Formerly known as the Museum Jan van der Togt, the Jan Museum primarily focuses on contemporary art and features a variety of temporary exhibitions that showcase works by both Dutch and international artists. Renowned for its modern art collection, which includes notable glass art, the museum is celebrated for its inviting and well-designed space that enhances the presentation of the artworks.


Here is a photo of a real veal burger. Certainly better to eat than a piece of painted canvas. But Sparnaay manages with his art to make you experience an image intensely, transforming it into fantasy and desire. In front of his burgers you can smell the grill and feel your mouth watering.


CIBUS PARMA May 7-9th 2024

Last but not least, let's not forget that while food is art, it must also be delicious—truly delicious.

If you're passionate about high-quality food, let's talk at CIBUS in Parma. I enjoy connecting with people who appreciate our craft. I'll be there from May 7-9, 2024.

If you'd like to schedule a meeting, please email me at or whatsapp/call me at +31 653 228739.

I look forward to discussing our shared passion for great food!



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