NEW YORK (AFP) - A rare watercolor by French artist Paul Cezanne fetched $19.12 million at Christie’s auction house in New York late Tuesday.

The painting, titled “A Card Player,” kicked off a spring auction of impressionist and modern art.

The watercolor, which measures 46.7 by 30.5 centimeters, was found in the private collection of the late Heinz Eichenwald, a medical doctor and art collector who emigrated to the United States in the mid-1930s and spent his career in Dallas, Texas. The watercolor was last seen in public in 1953.

The work “is one of the artist’s preparatory studies for Les joueurs de cartes (Card Players), the seminal five-painting series that Cézanne completed between 1890 and 1896,” Christie’s said in a statement.

The auction house had estimated it would sell at between $15 and $20 million.

Over the course of one hour, 31 paintings and sculptures went under the hammer. Several were sold at below or just above their price estimate, while three did not meet the minimum requested bid.

Successful sales include a 1907 Henri Matisse painting titled “Peonies” — a white-and-blue checkered vase holding flowers — that was auctioned for $19.2 million, far above its original estimate of between $8 million and $12 million.

“The Sleeper (Marie-Therese Walter),” a 1932 portrait by Pablo Picasso, was valued at between $5 million and $7 million, and sold at $9.88 million. However a larger Picasso painting, “Two Reclining Nudes” (1968), was sold for $8.8 million. Its value had been estimated at between $8 million and $12 million.

A Joan Miro painting titled “L’arête rouge transperce les plumes bleues de l’oiseau au pâle bec” had an estimated value of between $4.5 million and $6.5 million, and sold for $4.33 million. An Alberto Giacometti figure, “Bust of Diego,” was withdrawn just before the auction began.