Most people who visit the Royal Pavilion are bowled over by its architecture.

Others love the indulgent furnishings and grand set-pieces such as the Music Room.

For Alexandra Loske, a PhD student in the art history department at the University of Sussex, the colour scheme is what makes George IV’s pleasure palace worthy of further study.

“It is an unusually colourful building,” she says. “It has very vibrant, highly saturated colours, in experimental combinations.”

Compare the Royal Pavilion to other buildings from the same era (the late 18th-century Regency or neo-Classical style) and its colour schemes are rare.

Other grand interiors at the time would be white or have muted colours, and those that did have brighter colours would often take influence from Italy and Europe.

China and the East are influences for the Pavilion’s colour scheme (as with its architecture). The exotic wares, fabrics, hand-painted wallpapers, decorated porcelain (from China, of course) which arrived in Europe with the East India companies were catalysts for the style.

“The Pavilion is exceptional in its intensity and that is a reflection of George’s tastes,” says Loske.

“Oriental things were fashionable and you do get Chinese-looking rooms and collections of exotic objects in European buildings, but in the Pavilion it is everywhere. It is the entire building.”

George, as the Prince Regent and later King, could afford to embrace new pigments and experimental design ideas.

“When a new pigment became available that he liked, he went for it. He would buy it in great quantities and had entire rooms decorated in that colour.”

George’s tastes reflected fashion. Styles at the time were driven by the Romantic Movement’s focus on nature, beauty and the effects of colour.

But the Prince Regent liked the wilder end of Chinoiserie and Orientalism, which was made possible by new synthetic pigments – such as 18th-century Prussian Blue and 19th-century Chrome Yellow – becoming available.

“It was a period where people had a renewed interest in colour and it has a lot to do with art institutions, such as the Royal Academy, but also with scientific societies at the time.”

The first Royal Academy president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, lectured on colour and the second president, Benjamin West, wrote his own colour theory.

Romantic German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe criticised Isaac Newton’s Opticks, in which Newton proposed that white light was composed of seven spectral colours, and offered more spiritual explanations. He even assigned moral values to certain colours.

“The interest in colour was fuelled further by the invention of many synthetic pigments, which was reflected in fashionable tastes of the day,” continues Loske.

“This is demonstrated in practical guidance books on interior design and watercolour painting and the extensive use of novel pigments.”

Loske, whose five-year doctoral study of Regency colour is coming to an end, works at the Royal Pavilion as a guide as well as an occasional curator.

She has put together the Regency Colour display in conjunction with other curators and arts professionals from the Pavilion.

Objects and exhibits include a rare copy of one of the first fashion magazines, Ackermann’s Repository Of Arts, which included coloured fashion plates and even fabric samples.

“George wanted to be fashionable but he also influenced fashion – this magazine was actually dedicated to him. We have that magazine with a sample of a fabric he used at his palace, Carlton House, in London.”

A trail will weave through the pavilion with explanations about the colours in different rooms.

The most valuable and precious objects are a rare book on colour by Moses Harris, The Natural System of Colours, from 1811, with detailed prismatic colour circles, and a first edition of a book from 1805 by artist and colour theorist Mary Gartside. She illustrated her books with freely painted watercolour to explain how harmonious compositions should be arranged in a painting.

Other displays include a mock-up of the changing interior design scheme in the salon and tools, pigments and books used by interior decorators.

  • Regency Colour Curator’s Tour: Alexandra Loske will introduce the displays on Wednesday, July 3, and Monday, September 16, at the Royal Pavilion, from 1pm to 1.30pm. Free with Royal Pavilion admission.