Adolf Oberländer • The Poet in the Cafe
Pen and ink on paper
19.5 : 15.5 cm
Signed lower right
‘Fliegende Blätter’, 89/2249 (1888), p. 88 with the following caption:
‟Dichterisch beanlagter Jüngling (sehnsüchtig): ‘Könnt‘ ich Löwenmähnen schütteln!’ … Erfüllung wird ihm nach einem Jahre als Lehrling in einem Pelzwaarengeschäft.’”
1845 Regensburg - 1923 Munich
Adolf Oberländer ranks alongside Carl Spitzweg and Wilhelm Busch as one of the most influential humourists active in Germany in the second half of the nineteenth century. His extensive output of highly imaginative caricatures spans a broad range of subjects. The caricatures became widely accessible to the public through their publication in the Munich-based weekly magazine Fliegende Blätter, to which Oberländer, like Spitzweg and Busch, was a regular contributor.
The magazine, which appeared between 1845 and 1944, had a very large print run. It was non-political and had a largely bourgeois readership. It derived its success from a well-balanced mix of literary articles and illustrations which generally expressed a bland, good-natured type of humour that was rarely satirical and never offensive. This is mirrored in the timbre of Oberländer’s drawings, hundreds of which were published in the magazine during the five decades of his career as a contributor. As a draughtsman, Oberländer’s preferred medium was pen and ink. He worked on paper, setting down his ideas with great verve and dexterity. His drawings are characterised by a complex fabric of fine lines which come together to form a single pictorial narrative. The distribution of light and shadow, the spatial arrangement and the distinctive characteristics of the protagonists are formulated using a variety of carefully defined, contrasting pen strokes. This approach has a dual purpose – to lend the image vibrancy and life, and, bearing in mind that the drawing is to be published as a wood engraving, to facilitate the reproduction process. Wood engraving was the printing technique usually used by Fliegende Blätter for reproducing drawings.
The twelve volumes of the Oberländer-Album, first published between 1879 and 1901 and reissued before 1918, testify to the extraordinary popularity of Oberländer’s work in his lifetime. The Wilhelm-Busch-Museum in Hanover, the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich and the Städtische Galerie in Regensburg hold extensive collections of his drawings.