Alphonse Allais (20 October 1854 – 28 October 1905) was a French writer and humorist born in Honfleur, Calvados.
He is the author of many collections of whimsical writings. A poet as much as a humorist, he in particular cultivated the verse form known as holorhyme, i.e. made up entirely of homophonous verses, where entire lines rhyme. For example:
«First Communion of Anaemic Young Girls In The Snow» (Carré blanc) 1883
par les bois du djinn où s'entasse de l'effroi,
parle et bois du gin ou cent tasses de lait froid.
Allais is also credited with the earliest known example of a completely silent musical composition. Composed in 1897, his Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man – consisting of nine blank measures – predates comparable works by John Cage and Erwin Schulhoff by a considerable margin. His piece “Story for Sara” was translated and illustrated by Edward Gorey.
Allais participated in humorous exhibitions, particularly in 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. Of his art, perhaps the most influential were his plain white sheet of Bristol paper Première communion de jeunes filles chlorotiques par un temps de neige (First Communion of Anaemic 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).