Armenian painting is generally considered to have originated with the illumination of religious manuscripts that thrived from the ninth to the seventeenth century. Armenian painters in Cilicia and elsewhere enriched Byzantine and Western formulas with their unique use of color and their inclusion of Oriental themes acquired from the Mongols. Many unique Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts remain in museums in the West.
The nineteenth century saw a blooming of Armenian painting. Artists from that period, such as the portrait painter Hakop Hovnatanian and the seascape artist Hovhannes (Ivan) Aivazovsky, continue to enjoy international reputations. Notable figures of the twentieth century have included the unorthodox Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikian, who lived a persecuted existence in Tbilisi, and the emigre surrealist Arshile Gorky (pseudonym of Vosdanik Adoian), who greatly influenced a generation of young American artists in New York. Other emigre painters in various countries have continued the tradition as well.