Betsy Davison, author of The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820: “A True North Britain” in the Southern Backcountry, is an independent decorative arts scholar. The Furniture of John Shearer compiles Shearer’s known fifty-two pieces for the first time, cataloging in detail the thirty-two that she was able to examine. The remaining pieces are recorded in the book with old photographs, thanks to MESDA’s extensive research files. Since the book was published in January 2011, Davison has lectured widely on Shearer’s message-laden furniture and the new pieces that have turned up since the book’s publication. She continues her search for the singular piece that might finally reveal this enigmatic craftsman.
Davison’s research has branched out. Her October 2014 article entitled Research Note: Scottish Bedroom Tables from Scotland to the American South appears in the online Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts. She now begins to focus her primary attention on Johannes Spitler (1774-1837), a furniture decorator from eastern Shenandoah (now Page) County, Virginia.
This is a second career for Davison. She wrote her master’s thesis on John Shearer while pursuing graduate studies in the History of Decorative Arts and Design at the Smithsonian/Parsons The New School of Design in Washington, D.C. Graduating in 2009, she guest-curated the exhibit ‘A True North Britain:’ The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820 which ran at the Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Museum in Washington, DC, October 7, 2010-March 4, 2011 and at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, April 2, 2011-March 5, 2012.