Who is Annie Lee, the artist Lizzo paid tribute to on ‘SNL’?

During her performance of "Break Up Twice" on the "Saturday Night Live" holiday show, Lizzo honored Lee's painting "Blue Monday."

Last weekend, Lizzo returned to “Saturday Night Live” as the musical guest for the series’ final show of 2022, hosted by Austin Butler. The holiday-themed episode of the popular sketch comedy series was particularly emotional, especially since it was the farewell for one of the longest-running players on “SNL,” Cecily Strong.

Nonetheless, over the internet, one of the biggest moments viewers were abuzz about was Lizzo and specifically the reference she made to another trailblazing Black artist in her performance.

Lizzo, the musical guest on the Dec. 17 “Saturday Night Live” episode, performs “Break Up Twice,” paying tribute to artist Anne Lee in her settings. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/Saturday Night Live)

The Grammy Award-winning singer took to the stage on “SNL” for two musical performances, one a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas,” and the second “Break Up Twice,” a song from her latest album, “Special.” The latter is the one that has caused chatter online, as it paid homage to the classic Annie Lee painting, “Blue Monday.”

The painting is regarded as the most famous by Lee, an artist who was known for her moving depictions of the everyday moments in African American life. Her work had a signature of having expressive but faceless figures, their body language telling the stories.

Lee’s paintings, while mass-produced and appearing in homes throughout the world, also found an audience on television throughout her career. Her various works appeared in episodes of shows like, “227,” “A Different World,” “Amen” and more.

Lee, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 79, began painting in her 40s after raising a family and working for years for the Chicago & North Western Railroad. Speaking to The Chicago Tribune in 1997, she said, “I think my paintings connect me to women. I know that how I feel is the way a lot of women feel.”

Viewers almost immediately recognized Lizzo’s reference in her performance, with many taking to Twitter to express their excitement about it.

Lizzo herself shared some of the reactions on her Instagram, thanking her fans and team for understanding her and her vision. She shared in her caption, “You get me, you really get me💙 thank you to my creative team for helping me pull this vision off w less than a week to prepare!”

In the same 1997 feature with the Tribune, Lee reflected on her purpose and why she made art in the first place. “I sometimes ask why I’m doing this,” she shared. “Painting has been here forever. And art and music are things you have to have. It’s as simple as that.”

With this “SNL” performance and celebration by Lizzo, and with Lee subsequently trending online for hours after, it’s obvious the visionary’s by-the-brush legacy continues to live on.

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