Alphonse Allais (1854-1905)

Album primo-avrilesque, 1897 [PDF, 2mb]

Allais wrote the earliest known example of a completely silent musical composition. His Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man of 1897 consists of nine blank measures. It predates similarly silent but intellectually serious works by John Cage and Erwin Schulhoff by many years. His prose piece "Story for Sara" was translated and illustrated by Edward Gorey.

Allais participated in humorous exhibitions, including those of the Salon des Arts Incohérents of 1883 and 1884, held at the Galerie Vivienne. At these Allais exhibited arguably the earliest examples of conceptual art: art, his plain white sheet of Bristol paper Première communion de jeunes filles chlorotiques par un temps de neige (First Communion of Anemic Young Girls In The Snow) (1883) and a similar red work Apoplectic Cardinals Harvesting Tomatoes on the Shore of the Red Sea (Study of the Aurora Borealis) (1884).