Thomas Shearer

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A Thomas Shearer mahogany sideboard Thomas Shearer mahogany sideboard.jpg
A Thomas Shearer mahogany sideboard

Thomas Shearer was an 18th-century English furniture designer and cabinet-maker.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Shearer was a craftsman and the author of most of the plates in The Cabinet Maker's London Book of Prices and Designs of Cabinet Work, issued in 1788 "for the London Society of Cabinet Makers." The majority of these plates were republished separately as Designs for Household Furniture. They exhibit their author as a man with an eye at once for simplicity of design and delicacy of proportion. Indeed, some of his pieces possess a dainty and slender elegance which has never been surpassed in the history of English furniture.

There can be little doubt that Shearer exercised considerable influence over George Hepplewhite, with whom there is reason to suppose that he was closely associated, while Thomas Sheraton has recorded his admiration for work which has often been attributed to others. Shearer, in his turn, owes something to the Adam brothers, and something, no doubt, to the stock designs of his predecessors.

George Hepplewhite was a cabinetmaker. He is regarded as having been one of the "big three" English furniture makers of the 18th century, along with Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale. There are no pieces of furniture made by Hepplewhite or his firm known to exist but he gave his name to a distinctive style of light, elegant furniture that was fashionable between about 1775 and 1800 and reproductions of his designs continued through the following centuries. One characteristic that is seen in many of his designs is a shield-shaped chair back, where an expansive shield appeared in place of a narrower splat design.

Thomas Sheraton British furniture designer

Thomas Sheraton was a furniture designer, one of the "big three" English furniture makers of the 18th century, along with Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite. Sheraton gave his name to a style of furniture characterized by a feminine refinement of late Georgian styles and became the most powerful source of inspiration behind the furniture of the late 18th century.

Robert Adam Scottish neoclassical architect

Robert Adam was a Scottish neoclassical architect, interior designer and furniture designer. He was the son of William Adam (1689–1748), Scotland's foremost architect of the time, and trained under him. With his older brother John, Robert took on the family business, which included lucrative work for the Board of Ordnance, after William's death.

There is every reason to suppose that he worked at his craft with his own hands and that he was literally a cabinet-maker—so far as we know, he never made chairs. Much of the elegance of Shearer's work is due to his graceful and reticent employment of inlays of satinwood and other foreign woods. But he was as successful in form as in decoration, and no man ever used the curve to better purpose.

In Shearer's time the sideboard was in process of evolution; previously it had been a table with drawers, the pedestals and knife-boxes being separate pieces. He would seem to have been first to combine them into the familiar and often beautiful form they took at the end of the 18th century. The combination may have been made before, but his plate is, in point of time, the first published document to show it.

Sideboard furnishing

A sideboard, also called a buffet, is an item of furniture traditionally used in the dining room for serving food, for displaying serving dishes, and for storage. It usually consists of a set of cabinets, or cupboards, and one or more drawers, all topped by a wooden surface for conveniently holding food, serving dishes, or lighting devices. The words sideboard and buffet are somewhat interchangeable, but if the item has short legs, or a base that sits directly on the floor with no legs, it is more likely to be called a sideboard; if it has longer legs it is more likely to be called a buffet.

Shearer, like many of his contemporaries, was much given to devising "harlequin" furniture. He was a designer of high merit and real originality, and occupies a distinguished place among the little band of men, often, like himself, ill-educated and obscure of origin, who raised the English cabinet-making of the second half of the 18th century to an illustrious place in artistic history.


Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Shearer, Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica . 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 815. 

The public domain consists of all the creative works to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable.

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