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Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia and Rabinowich Papers

Identifier: MSE/REE 0013

Scope and Contents

The collection includes over 5,000 items, among which are almost 3,000 letters from students, teachers, colleagues, Russian painters, and cultural figures in Russia and abroad. Besides the letters, materials relating to Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia's personal life include diaries and travel logs. The manuscript material includes Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia's dissertation, book and article drafts, lectures, and research notes. There are approximately 1700 slides primarily of art works, and there are almost 400 photographs of family and friends. The collection contains a number of books and serials relating to the history of Russian art and literature at the turn of the 20th century; for the most part they are accessible through Notre Dame's online catalog.

Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia's daughter, Nina, is an artist as was her son-in-law, Boris Rabinowich. Among their many friends and colleagues were such artists as: Alek Rapoport, Anatolii Basin, Vladimir Kotliarov ("Tolsty"), and many others. The collection includes exhibit posters, catalogs, brochures, and invitations, and the letters and photographs reflect this rich circle of friends and acquaintances.


  • Creation: 1900-2014
  • Creation: (bulk 1930s-1990s)


Language of Materials


Language of Materials


Language of Materials

Collection material primarily in Russian

Conditions Governing Access

The correspondence between the family and Aleksei Makhmudov (folders 203-212A) are restricted until 2024.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Eleonora Petrovna Gomberg (1912-2002) was born in Elisavetgrad in the Ukraine. Her father was killed in an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1918, and in 1923 she and her mother moved to Petrograd (soon to be renamed Leningrad). They received a permit for a room in a communal apartment with the help of the Bolshevik leader Grigory Zinoviev, who was a relative on the mother's side of the family. There Gomberg continued her musical education which had begun in Elisavetgrad under the tutelage of Olga Blumenfeld, the mother of the famous pianist Heinrich Neuhaus. In 1929 Gomberg matriculated in the philological department at Leningrad State University, where she studied primarily Russian language and literature. She was partiuclarly interested in symbolism and the poets at the turn of the 20th c. In the late 1930s she met her first husband, Semen Makhmudov, a linguist and post-graduate student, and in 1937 she gave birth to her son, Aleksei. In 1939 she finished her dissertation entitled: "Russian Symbolism and the Revolution of 1905," but the onset of World War II interrupted her academic career in Leningrad. She was evacuated to Alma-Ata, where she taught Russian literature at the university there.

With the end of the war Gomberg returned to Leningrad State U. and helped to establish the department of art history. Separated from her first husband, she married the mathematician, Mikhail Lvovich Verzhbinskii and gave birth to her daughter Nina in 1947. Despite the difficulties of life in war-ravaged Leningrad and the dangers brought on by the campaign against "Cosmopolitanism," Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia laid the foundation for her academic success. She later published such books as: Vrubel (1959) and the Peredvizhniki (1961), as well as articles and book chapters. She had a special affinity with her students, many of whom became lifelong friends and who in turn became art critics, professors, art historians, and curators.

Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia's daughter, Nina, attended the Mukhinskoe Uchilishche and pursued a career in art. In 1969 she married the artist Boris Rabinowich, one of the new artists who diverged from socialist realism. He participated in the D/K Nevskii exhibit of non-conformist artists in 1975. As the atmosphere in the USSR became more antisemitic and more repressive toward non-conformist art, the family members agonized over the decision to uproot their lives and to emigrate. In December of 1977 they left their home in Leningrad for Vienna. Of course, there were sacrifices and repercussions -- a book on the artist Konstantin Somov that Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia had worked on would not have been published unless she withdrew her name from the title-page. For the sake of the book she deferred to her co-authors and co-editors. On the other hand, Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia was free to embark on a new life. She traveled to the US delivering a series of lectures at various universities on Russian art. She took a position teaching at the U. of Cagliari in Sardinia. She reunited with old friends like Dora Shturman who had emigrated to Israel. She even became an Austrian citizen in 1987. She died in 2002 and the last part of her life was as rich as any part that had gone before: reuniting with colleagues in Leningrad after the changes in Russia, attending conferences and delivering papers, and participating in classes and giving the occasional lecture at the U. of Vienna.


23 Cubic Feet (17 containers; approximately 5000 items. )


Eleonora Petrovna Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia was a well known art critic and historian of art, and the collection consists of documents, diaries, correspondence, written drafts, photographs, books, and slides. Gomberg's daughter, Nina Rabinowich, is a practicing artist, and her husband, Boris Rabinowich, was an important non-conformist artist. The family emigrated to Vienna, Austria, in 1977, and the collection includes catalogs, brochures, and posters for art exhibits of both Boris and Nina as well as some of their colleagues. Iulia Rabinowich, Boris and Nina's daughter, is an author, playwright, painter, and translator.


The collection consists of ten series: documents, diaries, correspondence, works by Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia and family, works by others, photographs, exhibits, books and journals, slides, and finally, miscellaneous. The correspondence is alphabetically arranged by sender, while the other series are arranged chronologically.

The cover file for this collection contains several useful documents: for example, "Eleonora Petrovna Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia (1912-2002): Biograficheskie zametki ee docheri, Ninoi Verzhbinskoi-Rabinowich." The cover file also contains such documents as Nina Rabinowich's list of correspondents which includes helpful biographical details. Throughout the files in this collection, we have often included emails from Nina Rabinowich as well as envelopes inscribed by her when the inscription helped clarify the folder's contents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia and Rabinowich collection was acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in September of 2013, from Nina Rabinowich of Vienna, Austria. The papers were arranged and described by Kenneth Kinslow and Natasha Lyandres. Finding aid 2016, by Kenneth Kinslow.

Gomberg-Verzhbinskaia and Rabinowich Papers
Kenneth Kinslow
August 2016
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556