Wassily Kandinsky's Studie zu Improvisation 3 sold well at Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art sale in London last night (June 18), yet just missed out on a new world record.
The masterpiece sold for £13.5m ($21m), comfortably within its £12m-16m ($19m-24m) estimate.
However, with the world record for the artist's work set at $23m by another piece from his pioneering Improvisations series at Christie's in November 2012, it was hoped that Studie zu Improvisation 3 would top this price.
The Improvisations series began in 1909, with the artist truly exploring abstraction for the first time.
"Through these paintings, Kandinsky was pushing the traditional limits of artistic expression in order to advance radical new theories about form, color, subject matter and most of all, artistic impulse," commented Christie's Brooke Lamply prior to the sale.
"All of our contemporary notions of abstract art evolved from pioneers like Kandinsky, who truly blazed the trail for so many to follow."
It is said that the image of a lone knight preparing to storm a castle - a frequent theme of Kandinsky's work - represents the impending apocalypse and subsequent resurrection of the spirit that the artist believed in.
Amedeo Modigliani's portrait of his art dealer friend Paul Guillaume saw the second highest bids of the sale, selling at £6.7m ($10.6m). One of only four ever made, this example is the only one in private hands.
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