He was born at Regensburg, but after 1847 lived in Munich. He studied painting at the Munich Academy under Karl von Piloty. But found that historical painting did not suit his particular talent. He soon discovered that the true expression of his genius was in the field of caricature and comic drawings.
He joined the staff of the Fliegende Blätter, to which he became a constant contributor and leading artist.
Unlike Wilhelm Busch, whose aim was the utmost simplicity of line, and whose drawings form a running commentary on the caption, Oberländer’s work is essentially pictorial, and expressive in itself, without the extraneous aid of the written line.
Among his best drawings are his parodies on the style of well-known painters, such as the Variations on the Kissing Theme. Other subjects are taken from mythology, fairy tales, fables, animal life and the customs and habits of the German middle class.