At the turn of the 19th century, the Armenian merchant Konstantin (Gevork) Aivazovsky moved to Theodosia from Poland. The Armenian church of the city recorded on July 17, 1817, the birth of "Hovhannes, son of Gevork Ayvazian" in the register of births and baptisms. His father operated a small store in Theodosia and his mother was employed in the lace and embroidery industry. Borth worked diligently in order to support their five children.
The Governor of Theodosia recognized the talent of young Hovhannes and helped him enter high school in Simferopol and in 1833 St. Petersburg Academy of Art where he studied under M. Vorobyov, a renowned Russian landscape painter and the French marine painter F. Tanner, and where he graduated with honours at 20 years of age. He was sent to study in Italy and returned a recognised master. Delacroix spoke of him with great respect and Turner described him as a genius. Always true to his motto, "For me, to live means to work," Aivazovski created around 6,000 paintings. His house in his native town was turned into a museum dedicated to his memory even during his lifetime.
One of the greatest seascape painters of his time, Aivazovsky conveyed the movement of the waves, the transparent water, the dialogue between sea and sky with with virtuoso skill and tangible verisimilitude. The artist also often turned to themes from Armenian and Russian history. The originality of Aivazovsky's work is largely determined by his national character and temperament. Armenian culture has an ancient tradition of the creative value of light, and the knowledge of light was one of the most important elements in his art, giving the artist's canvases a dreamy and emotional feel.
Following the massacres of the Armenians in Turkey, many refugees came to Theodosia, where Aivazovsky provided shelter and food, and helped families relocate. So incensed was he with the treatment of the Armenians in Turkey that he painted a series of canvases condemning the massacres, which were exhibted in Moscow. He also renounced the medals which has been presented to him by the Sultan. His own emotional involvement with the massacres produced the paintings, The Armenian Massacres of Trevizond
, Shiploaded Armenians
, and Armenians Thrown into the Sea Alive
In a letter addressed to Catholicos Khrimian in Etchmiadzin, Aivazovsky wrote: "I am deeply distressed to hear of the appalling, unprecendented massacre of the helpless Armenians".
In accordance with his wishes, Aivazovsky was buried in the courtyard of the St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Theodosia. The inscription on his tombstone, in Armenian and Russian reads: "He was born a mortal, left an immortal legacy".Most of this biography was quoted from Aivazovsky in America, edited by Iris Papazian and Andrew Shahinian.