Christopher High Shearer was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1846. He was a descendant of Christopher Johan Shearer, a Dutch shoemaker who immigrated to Reading and is considered the founder of the Shearer family in America. The Shearer family relied on their trade skills of shoemaking, farming, carpentry, and building. Christopher Shearer was one of nine children and was raised on the family farm in Tuckerton in Berks County. As a child, he became fascinated with nature and particularly butterflies. His daily exposure to farm life and his open-air surroundings enhanced his interest in art. Shearer, while still a teenager, was mentored by Francis D. Devlan, and encouraged by John Heyl Raser (1824-1901).
Upon accomplishing artistic and financial success locally, Shearer traveled to Germany and France to experience the artistic academia offered in Europe. In 1876, Shearer began exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He continued to exhibit there until 1895, with some of his paintings being offered for sale for as much as three thousand dollars. Upon Shearer's return to Reading, he fraternized with his local contemporaries, such as Frederick Spang, J. Heyl Raser, and Edward Howell. He taught outdoor classes by the river, and is considered the most influential figure of the local art movement.
Shearer was a strong promoter of the arts in Berks County and supported the movement through an association with the Oscar Woerner Art Gallery. Shearer was also instrumental in the development of the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, convincing the founder, Dr. Levi Mengel, to incorporate a painting gallery within the institution.
Shearer was not the only artist within the family. His brother, Edmund, produced bucolic landscapes of Berks County and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Shearer's artistic influences also carried through to his sons, Victor and Arthur Bernard. Shearer retired to a farm near Stoudt's Ferry Bridge, where he gardened, farmed, and retained an art studio, painting until his death in 1926.