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Most interactive "query-by-example" based image retrieval systems utilize relevance feedback from the user for bridging the gap between the user's implied concept and the low-level image representation in the database. However, traditional relevance feedback usage in the context of content-based image retrieval (CBIR) may not be very efficient due to a significant overhead in database search and image download time in client-server environments. In this paper, we propose a CBIR system that efficiently addresses the inherent subjectivity in user perception during a retrieval session by employing a novel idea of intra-query modification and learning. The proposed system generates an object-level view of the query image using a new color segmentation technique. Color, shape and spatial features of individual segments are used for image representation and retrieval. The proposed system automatically generates a set of modifications by manipulating the features of the query segment(s). An initial estimate of user perception is learned from the user feedback provided on the set of modified images. This largely improves the precision in the first database search itself and alleviates the overheads of database search and image download. Precision-to-recall ratio is improved in further iterations through a new relevance feedback technique that utilizes both positive as well as negative examples. Extensive experiments have been conducted to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of the proposed system.