Kazimir Malevich painted his Black Square in 1915, and it was soon followed by White on White. I had thought this was pretty radical, but I’ve just been reading of three earlier works along similar lines, created by Alphonse Allais in the 1880’s. Alas, no images seem to be available on the web, but I’ve approximately re-created them from descriptions in Kirk Varnedoe’s Mellon Lectures.
I should have had this up two days ago, but Karl distracted me with his own April Fool’s post. By the way, long before John Cage, Allais presented a blank set of musical bars entitled Funeral Mass for a Deaf Man.
[Update: though intended to be amusing, this post is not an April Fool’s bluff. The pictures mentioned are, as far as I know from several accounts, matters of historical fact.]