In Gauguin’s canvases, broad areas of flat colour are contoured by dark outlines, rendering the whole canvas more decorative than representative.
Gauguin’s use of colour was quite cunning however: the flash of red on the lips of the reclining figure finds an echo in the red fabric at her feet, uniting the width of the composition.
Standing out from the overall flatness of the painting is the big toe of the figure’s left foot, which seems to protrude into our space.
Gauguin painted Nevermore on top of another, very different composition.
Thanks to an infrared scanner able to penetrate the paint surface and reveal the underlayers, it is possible to discern an elaborate tropical landscape, framed by palm trees on the left and a thick trunk on the right.
The body of a horse is visible at the centre (on the belly of the reclining figure) and a chicken appears amidst vegetation below her forearm. In the background, an L-shaped hut with three small windows can be discerned to the left of a tall tree (these are visible behind the headboard).
This setting recalls contemporary paintings like No te aha oe riri (1896, The Art Institute of Chicago). Why Gauguin decided to abandon the already elaborate composition is unknown.